At this month’s The Lawyer Awards, insurance giant Royal London won the prize for in-house legal operations team of the year, sponsored by Digital Legal Exchange.

It fended off competition from a number of contenders that managed to tap into their teams’ capabilities and external resources to reinvent how they worked and better serve the rest of their business.

In 2019, general counsel Fergus Speight tasked the team with a mandate to identify strategic priorities, revolutionise business as usual work through outsourcing or automation and to find ways to add value to the in-house legal team’s work. The result was, according to the judges, a pragmatic and refreshing solution for such a large organisation to adopt, particularly given the scale of the task and the number of stakeholders.”

Royal London
Royal London

A legal operations team tapped into historical data and talent to drive a four-year resource plan. Collaborating with Pinsent Masons, they analysed which work was handled in-house and which mandates went to external counsel to identify priorities and elaborated a learning and development programme crystallised in a know-how environment shared on platform HighQ, to drive continuous improvement over the years.

In a virtuous cycle, the in-house team focused on finding new ways to work with the external law firms, scoping out opportunities for shadowing and secondments. The external lawyers collaborated by embedding the findings gathered in the know-how platform to improve workflows through the adoption of technology and by providing updates on their own development, as well as giving the in-house lawyers at Royal London opportunities for specific training.

The judges concluded it was a “genuine change to traditional methods in a joint-venture model of delivery looking for more than service, providing and capturing knowledge and learning.”