The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) brings a host of legal professionals together every year so they can network and learn from each other. CLOC’s 2019 Las Vegas Institute was no exception as 2,200 attendees descended on Las Vegas from May 14th to 16th.
A few themes were prevalent throughout the institute, but a common one was the maturation and evolution of legal operations. Corporate legal leaders are seeing the legal space as an ecosystem in which several players, processes, and technological solutions are readily available to meet the needs of legal operations professionals. There was a recurring call for teams to look to their peers for success stories when approaching new strategies and processes. As the legal operations movement is now established, a number of senior leaders have seen initial success mapping processes and implementing quick wins in legal departments. Legal departments all over the world can now look to blueprints and case studies when managing change.
Mary O’Carroll, Director of the Legal Operations, Technology, and Strategy team at Google and President of CLOC kicked off the first day with her opening remarks that the consortium will begin beta testing membership for outside counsel in “a couple months”. She also spoke about how legal operations can be difficult but that is exactly what makes it worth doing, quoting Tom Hanks’ line from the film ‘A League of Their Own’:
“Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Hard is what makes it great.”
One talk focused on how technology has changed the ways in which we manage outside counsel and communicate performance to drive better outcomes. Another encouraged the attendees to learn about how law firms and legal operations departments are deploying Machine Learning solutions to enhance and optimize legal processes. Automation was a recurring theme of the talks across the week. One discussion highlighted how legal teams continue to be asked to do a lot more with fewer resources. A solution to this recurring challenge, offered by numerous vendors in attendance, is automation.
Following on from CLOC 2018, the theme of Diversity & Inclusion unsurprisingly resurfaced at the 2019 institute. The development of tools that will help legal teams to benchmark their Diversity & Inclusion program's evolution and maturity against standardized criteria is a very important takeaway from this year, in particular. The tech and law firm ecosystem will continue to address D&I into 2020 and beyond as corporate policies on the issue become further established.
The GC Panel entitled ‘Implementing Legal Operations in a Modern Legal Department’ was likely at capacity as it appeared that the majority of the 2200 attendees were present. The speakers were Nigel Bond, General Counsel, Wealth, Australian Banking, and Technology at Westpac, Dorian Daley, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Oracle, and Julie Gruber, Executive Vice President, Global General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, and Chief Compliance Officer at Gap, Inc.
Dorian contended that the best legal departments today aren’t just thinking about current efficiency, but future efficiency. She asserted that legal operations play a key role in driving future efficiency to become legal departments of the future. Julie Gruber said that tech isn’t always the answer to the problems that legal operations face. She informed everyone that legal operations in GAP gained many wins and “low hanging fruit” through process mapping and sorting through duplications and inefficient processes. Nigel added to this point that process mapping is a key step to successfully implementing any technological solution.
The theme of Diversity and Inclusion was also particularly prevalent at this talk. Each GC spoke about the importance of making tangible changes both within the legal department and through using their buying power to ensure outside counsel have staffed their matters with diverse teams.
Another talk centered around ‘Creating the New Legal Operating System’. The speakers were Richard Dammery, former Chief Legal Counsel and Company Secretary of Woolworths Group, Denise Doyle, Legal Enablement Lead at Telstra, Sam Kidd, CEO and Co-Founder of LawVu, Lindy Muto, Legal and Corporate Development Consultant at LawVu, and Mick Sheehy, Partner at PwC. The key theme that stood out here was the ability to understand the pain points within a legal department and the need for legal teams to identify some quick wins they can make to get some “runs on the board”. Denise highlighted how important it is to remember that change management is essential. She also reiterated that taking a process approach and understanding the current state of the process and pain points is key to implementing new technology successfully.
The talk entitled ‘Outside Counsel & In-House Partnership: Collaborating to Achieve Common Goals’ focused on how law departments and outside counsel legal operations professionals can best collaborate. The speakers were Justin Ergler, Director of Alternative Fee Intelligence and Analytics at GlaxoSmithKline, Gregg McConnell, Legal Operations Leader at Corteva, Melissa Prince, Chief Client Value Officer at Ballard Spahr, Lizzie Shilliam, Chief of Legal Operations at Vanderbilt University, and Ashley Woodill, Assistant Vice President at TD Bank.
Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs) were core to this session with the speakers exploring the value they've found in them. Change management was noted as key to successful AFA establishment as some corporate leaders are seeing push back internally when trying to move away from the hourly status quo.
Another important takeaway from this talk is that trust is essential to AFA partnership between a firm and the legal team. Business development roles within law firms are experiencing similar growth to the legal operations movement. Experienced business professionals are coming on board to establish commerical best practices. In this context should the pricing agreement reside between these points of contact and how does that impact the overall relationship between partners and corporate leadership?
In summary, the legal operations movement is maturing, with an outside counsel and technology ecosystem to support it. There are now documented methods to see early success when establishing legal operations in organizations, some of which focus on understanding, mapping, and improving the processes which drive corporate legal work. In order to achieve the desired outcomes, change management remains a necessary skillset.