The 2019 CLOC Conference took place earlier this month, and it was a rich experience. It was my first time attending and, boarding the plane on the way out there, I was very excited to network and connect with legal professionals.
CLOC, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help corporate legal industry players optimize the delivery models that support the needs of legal departments.
I couldn’t believe the energy, the passion, and the power of this event. It is unlike anything I had seen before.
The community behind CLOC clearly has the motivation—and the influence—to make waves in the legal field at large. Here’s how I see them doing just that.
During her opening keynote, CLOC President Mary O’Carroll reminded attendees of something critical: “Legal ops is not a trend—it is a movement that keeps growing.” This movement is driven by people who are fearless when it comes to forging new paths and developing a new landscape for legal efficiency in their organizations.
Mary’s opening remarks called for law firms to have the courage to evolve, as the corporate members of CLOC have done. It was courageous of her to make a bold statement to kick off the conference—and it was indicative of a movement we know is in high demand. Mary went on to announce a pilot program where several law firms will be participating in their own community within CLOC. This program is aimed at providing law firms a community where they can collaborate and innovate around legal operations.
The launch of this initiative is a compelling story for legal operations teams of all backgrounds. To truly maximize the value of this discipline within its own ecosystem, all parties must be at the table, ready to contribute. Put simply, the demand for it provides further evidence that in-house legal departments and outside counsel must be on the same page to realize the true pay-off they’re looking to achieve.
As Mary explained it: “We believe CLOC has a huge role to play in bridging that divide and driving change at scale. And so, right now, we’re really actively working on getting law firms more engaged in the CLOC community.”
Legal operations teams across industries are looking for more innovation from both law firms and technology partners. Driving home this message was a session that really spoke to me—“Outside Counsel & In-House Partnership: Collaborating to Achieve Common Goals.” The hour was led by Melissa C. Prince, Ballard Spahr LLP, and the panel consisted of Lizzie Shilliam, Vanderbilt University; Ashley Woodill, TD Bank; Gregg McConnell, Corteva; and Justin Ergler, GlaxoSmithKline.
Listeners were, in the first few moments of the session, confronted with the following statement:
“One of ways law departments can leverage technology is through management metrics and data analytics, but most departments are at the beginning of the learning curve in these areas. While 39 percent of law departments report collecting and analyzing management metrics to improve efficiency, only 6.6 percent report getting great value from those efforts. In the coming years, we expect to see steady increases in both the use of more sophisticated data analysis, and the value that CLOs will derive from it.”
The panelists then discussed how important it is for outside counsel to focus on innovation when it comes to not just technology, but also people and processes.
The common trend among all panelists? They want to see more efficient project management, better understanding of their businesses, improved responsiveness, and leveled-up technology from their outside counsel.
During the discussion, I was also surprised to learn that only 18 percent of law firms are partnering with a tech company on innovation to better serve clients. Competition is stiff in today’s legal landscape, but clearly there’s a lot of opportunity to surge ahead of the pack—if only law firms are ready to take it.
I was so inspired to see so many women on the CLOC panels and leading the way in important conversations. It certainly didn’t go unnoticed that there was a strong focus on diversity and inclusion during the CLOC conference. Like any of us, I’m always thrilled to see that the rhetoric relating to diversity and inclusion in the legal field is starting to become a reality.
Mary touched on the effort to make that reality happen during her closing remarks: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
I wholeheartedly agree. Knowing how many smart, talented people of all backgrounds are in this community, I am excited to see how legal operations teams continue to grow and evolve this year.
Perhaps some of these standout, in-house minds will even make an appearance at Relativity Fest this year—I can certainly see many of them deserving an Innovation Award for their stellar contributions to the modern practice of law.
Samantha Kandah is a senior manager of industry marketing at Relativity, where she focuses on understanding and advocating for in-house legal teams.