Slow, steady progress is the way to meet the operational challenges that today’s legal departments face. That’s the conclusion come to by many of the 30 people who convened earlier this week at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss legal department operation priorities and best practices, along with preliminary results of the 5th Annual Law Department Operations Survey.

Brad Blickstein, principal at the Blickstein Group, one of the survey sponsors, highlighted the three biggest challenges that those who manage law department functions identified in the survey. By a significant margin, respondents chose “identifying opportunities for business improvement and cost-savings” and “driving/implementing change” as their two biggest challenges. “Managing a budget” ranked a distant third.

When discussing ways to meet those challenges, several participants repeated the mantra of capturing low-hanging fruit. Today’s legal departments are so thinly staffed that many are skeptical of disruptive changes, even those that will save time in the long run. Many attorneys also want to be assured that new processes and technology will lead to better results, not more time-consuming busy work, according to participants.

Participants also discussed their key performance indicators. Among survey participants, “actual spend vs. law department’s total budget” ranked first, while “total outside counsel spend” and “total outside counsel and service-provider spend” tied for second.

Other topics covered in the 2.5 hour event included e-discovery and relationships with outside counsel.

Further results and analysis of the 5th Annual LDO Survey will be featured in a special section of the November issue of InsideCounsel magazine. LDO managers who are still interested in taking the survey, and receiving the full results when they are available, can find more information here.