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3 Things I Learned at CLOC Institute 2018

April Runft

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s (CLOC) Institute 2018 in Las Vegas doubled in size compared to last year, drawing 2,000 supporters. The audience was split about 50-50 between legal operations executives and other members of the ecosystem, like law firms and technology providers.

“We continue to be surprised by the community's explosive growth,” said Connie Brenton, CEO of CLOC. “And it's important to us that we keep our culture of collaboration, connection, and empathy as we grow. We had a feeling the major panel discussions would be good, based on our preparation—but we couldn’t anticipate such a high level of authenticity, and the impact some of them would have.

Industry experts have been tracking the rise of legal operations for several years. But I was a newbie to the CLOC Institute this year. Here are three things I learned.

#1: It’s go time for diversity and inclusion.

We’re beyond introductory conversations about why D&I is vital to business success. In one session, groups like Baker McKenzie, Oracle, and Starbucks talked about incentives for results, “de-biased” interviews that prize skills over sway, and programs that build talent pipelines early, like scholarship and work-study programs.

“Diverse recruiting works best when you set target numbers to hold yourself accountable,” said panelist Anna Brown, director of global diversity and inclusion at Baker McKenzie. “Commitment to diversity means you measure your progress, report on it, and share data across the company—not just HR.”

How do you fight “diversity fatigue” when it feels like too much—as if D&I work were on top of, rather than part of, your day job?

“Bring in new voices,” Anna said. “Refresh your strategy. Keep tying the discussion back to business results.”

#2: General counsels are the MacGyvers of the business world.

GCs may have once focused on pure legal guidance. No longer. Organizations ask their GCs to stretch their expertise into other areas—areas that may be out of their comfort zones. In session discussions, speakers from two causes in particular put out the siren call for greater GC leadership:


Data touches everything businesses do and creates new risks.

“Cyber risk is bigger than IT,” said Erik Laykin, managing director and head of global data risk at Duff and Phelps. “And the buck stops with the general counsel.”

The GC’s role in cybersecurity: Identify data at risk. Know what data you’re giving to third parties. Scope issues. Evaluate your preparedness. Ensure response. Engage, guide, and document processes.

“Corporations still treat cybersecurity as purely technical,” Erik said. “But remember to think about the people touching your corporate systems.”

Overwhelming, yes. But today, throwing an “I’m not technical” defense can no longer fly. General counsels can start by doing what they do best. Ask questions and listen: What data do we have? Why do we keep it? Who owns it? Who has access?

Shaping the Future of Law Firm Culture

Attendees at CLOC 2018 represent $50 billion in legal spend. Connie Brenton dropped this shocking stat during the opening keynote.

As first-line partners with outside counsel, GCs and their legal operations teams play the lead role in shaping the future of law firm culture. Looking for more diversity in your law firm team? Make sure it’s a requirement in your legal services RFPs and call it out in law firm client surveys: the power of the purse.

“Until the people who control spend ask for diversity, nothing will change,” said one session attendee.

The same goes for seeking greater innovation and data security from your law firm partnerships. Put your priorities front and center to create demand and reward the changes you want to see.

This expansion of a GC’s expectations means she needs a team of creative, trusted problem solvers to execute and innovate. Hence the growing legal operations practice.

#3: Change management has gone mainstream.

Many sessions referenced the importance of change management—the people side of change—as a key factor in project success.

“Change management is a roadmap for navigating change and getting buy in,” said Tom Paider, associate vice president at Nationwide Insurance, during his session on how artificial intelligence is transforming corporate legal departments. Because let’s be honest: “Behavioral change in groups is hard,” Tom said.

Despite all the new technology on the scene, the discussions went beyond the tools. They were also about how to bring human experts along to make the best use of new tech.

“Three-fourths of the effort we put into legal tech is about the people and the process, not the technology,” said Mark Chandler, general counsel at Cisco Systems.

What's in Store for CLOC 2019?

The Institute will be back at the Bellagio next year. The event team will iterate based on attendee feedback about the space, conference duration (no Sunday start; no longer than three days), opportunities for connection, and, most of all: content.

“Content is the most important element of the Institute,” Connie said. “We want to make certain the content we offer is useful and relevant to attendees’ career phases and the level of their organizations’ legal operations maturity.”

And in the meantime, CLOC leads several initiatives to strengthen the legal operations community in areas like metrics, cybersecurity, internship programs, and quality assessments. These programs aim to create industry standards for the community to build upon, from development to execution to adoption.

Annual conferences are great.

But as Connie noted, "our initiatives work is the glue between Institutes."

Register for an Upcoming Networking Webinar from ACEDS

April Runft is a member of the marketing communications team at Relativity, specializing in content development.