#CLOC2019 Highlights: Catching Up with Legal Operations in Las Vegas

CLOC 2019

Two weeks ago, the CLOC Institute gathered 2,200 legal professionals in Las Vegas, the largest networking group of the legal operations world. If you haven’t heard about legal operations yet, they are our daily contact persons at Obelisk Support, managing legal spend for large companies or law firms. We recently interviewed John Craske, Head of Innovation and Legal Operations at CMS to know more about his work.

Now in its fourth year, the CLOC Institute conference has become the mecca of all things legal ops, merging the worlds of tech, analytics and people under one legal roof. Here is what we learned.

#1  Law Firms are Getting on the Legal Ops Bandwagon

CLOC, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, was initially created to address concerns of general counsels in large corporations. Facing budget crunches, they needed to deliver timely and watertight legal advice while watching legal spend. Mary Shen O’Carroll, Head of Legal Ops at Google, defined it as “making sure that you’re getting value for the dollar that you’re spending, both inside on systems and human resources, but also externally.’ Four years ago, externally meant outsourcing to big law firms.

In 2019, the legal landscape has changed and alternative legal services providers like Obelisk Support make up a large portion of external legal spend, both for companies and law firms. As a result, law firms need to be on top of their external legal spend while maintaining quality and their street cred. Recognising the growing need of law firms to focus on pricing, diversity and inclusion, knowledge management, and more, CLOC is creating in 2019 a beta membership type for law firm legal operations professionals. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this experiment.

#2 Tech is Good

In the past decade, technology has changed the ways in which legal teams manage outside counsel and communicate performance to drive better outcomes. Some law firms and legal operations departments even deploy AI solutions to enhance and optimise legal processes and those that don’t will likely fall behind in the race towards future growth. Automation was definitely a recurring theme across #CLOC2019, the legal profession implementing more sophisticated perspectives and insights.

As industry events such as the Legal Geek conference, LEXPO or the Global Legal Hackathon show, legal tech is the future of the legal industry or more exactly, that future is happening right now.

At #CLOC2019, legal tech exhibitors included the likes of:

  • Mitratech (software for in-house professionals)
  • Exari (document automation software)
  • Icertis (contract management software)
  • Brightflag (intelligent enterprise legal management portal)
  • Onit (business process automation software for legal spend)
  • Integreon (business process outsourcing for legal teams)
  • Ultria (contract cycle management software)
  • Advologix (legal matter management software)
  • Contract Pod AI (AI technology for cloud-managed contracts)
  • Kira Systems (machine learning contract search & review)
  • Seal Software (legal AI for contract management)
  • Relativity (eDiscovery solutions)
  • Alphaserve (digital automation for legal industry)

…and many more.

#3 Process is Key

SimpleLegal founder Nathan Wenzel joined a session on Building and Optimising a Legal Operations Program and said, “The only problem technology solves is scale. It’s people and process that solve the underlying problem.”

Indeed, optimising the triad of people, processes, and technology is key to legal ops and while the legal operations function has the ability to integrate people and process, it needs to initiate the right conversations with key stakeholders both from the legal department and other business units – what is preventing the legal department from running efficiently?

From there, legal operations can evaluate, adopt, and incorporate technology to streamline processes, looking to data to facilitate additional optimisations and changes.

As tweeted by Stefania Passera, creator of LegalDesignJam, “Relationships are key, people cannot be automated out of the picture, you *really* should not automate garbage but take digitalisation as an opportunity to make things truly better also for people + business goals, people are irrational so you need designers + anthropologists.”

#4 Hail Diversity!

Diversity. Diversity. Diversity.

Unsurprisingly, the legal operations role is multifaceted, necessitating a broad lens to spot opportunities for impact. Hence the need for diversity but not just diversity for diversity’s sake – diversity needs to be executed well to make a business difference. At #CLOC2019, Legal operations professionals from Starbucks, Oracle and Northwestern Mutual discussed what worked (or not) in their diversity programs, offering strategies and a maturity index for legal departments.

  • Julie Gruber of The Gap and Christine Coats of Oracle: Legal ops professionals can promote collaboration, innovation, and law firm partnerships as a means to actually see the needle move on diversity. CLOC might be a driving force to make the needle move.
  • Nigel Bond of Westpac: Diversity is something he’s only recently approached with his team in Australia but he’s become a total advocate since the conversation is empowering and powerful.
  • Benchmarking: A panel of legal department decision makers from Baker McKenzie and companies like Starbucks and Washington Mutual created the Diversity & Inclusion Maturity Model Index to serve as a guide for the legal industry in tackling and improving programs.
  • Measurable KPIs: A Diversity & Inclusion program should focus on the professional development of all legal professionals from the time they enter the firm as summer associates and should include strategic objectives, tactical action items and specific, measurable milestones benchmarks to track and foster their progress over the course of their careers at the firm, until they become partners or they leave the firms to take-on other meaningful positions within or outside of the profession.

Based on what we heard this year, we’re already looking towards #CLOC2020 and the growth of legal ops as a positive force for change within the legal industry.