Transforming the structure of your legal department

Why a mindset shift might be key to moving the needle

Implementing change is hard, especially within the structures of corporate legal departments. However, legal functions often face realities that can make transformation a smart move. So where do chief legal officers (CLOs) and their teams begin? When coupled with a demonstrated transition strategy, our research points to an answer that’s simpler than expected: a shift in mindset.


Lori Lorenzo | Chief Legal Officer- Program Research and Insights Director Managing Director - Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP |

Ashley Smith | Managing Director Legal Business Services Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP |

Mani Agarwal | Senior Vice President Legal Business Services Deloitte Tax Services India Private Limited |

Erin Hess | Chief Legal Officer Program Research and Insights Manager Manager—Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP |


Whether your legal function is facing a push for budget reductions—or something else entirely—know that change is practically inevitable in every area of business, and use this opportunity to formally assess your legal team’s performance and structure. By adopting a transformation and service-delivery mindset, leaders can get ahead of trends and elevate their legal team’s reputation for delivering complex, sophisticated, and valuable work. Get an execution overview below, or download the full report to learn more.

Five steps to executing a more mindful legal transformation

For CLOs and legal executives

1. Find a North Star.

Lawyers are skeptics by training, which means CLOs need to provide a vision of how legal transformation will further the business strategy beyond cost reduction and efficiency. Communicating how this transformation will benefit leaders individually is key. And defining a “North Star” early on will help clear up any differences of perception that may exist between the CLO and the rest of the legal team.

Mindset tip: Stay focused on the “why.”

2. Understand the team’s work.

Next, it’s important for legal chiefs to truly understand what kind of work their legal department does. That means getting granular and assessing where team members are spending their time. At this stage of the transformation effort, focus on the work itself—not the people doing it.

Mindset tip: Identify the work that needs to be done. The people part will come later.

3. Determine the appropriate placement of work.

Legal executives can now think about the work their teams should be doing and what their alternatives are for everything else. Determine if projects or tasks are more specialized or standardized, as well as how much business value they hold. Work should be mapped according to how it most commonly occurs.

Mindset tip: Don’t get bogged down by the exceptions.

4. Introduce an operating model.

An operating model is a visual representation that aligns the legal department’s work with its capabilities to deliver legal services effectively and promptly. In this step, CLOs will need to decide the extent to which activities should be centralized or decentralized. This could be a good time to consider the number of direct reports you have. Too many can create inefficiency and be a drain on your time.

Mindset tip: Less may be more when it comes to direct reports.

5. Align people with roles.

With an operating model in place, people can begin to be assigned to specific—and, oftentimes, new—roles. These can be difficult decisions, but after intentionally moving through the first four steps above to develop strategic direction, the need for shifts in roles may be necessary.

Mindset tip: Use this opportunity to maximize your legal team’s potential.

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