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5 Key Lessons for Legal Ops from CLOC 2024

At a time when there are more legal operations events than ever, CLOC Global Institute (CGI) stands out as one of the largest and most impactful legal ops conferences in the industry. And this year’s event—held in May at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas— didn’t disappoint.

CGI often serves as an annual milestone for the growth that the legal operations industry has experienced in the 15 years since the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) was first founded. But CGI 2024 also helped place a renewed focus on the industry’s future, with panel discussions and presentations touching on topics like key skills to develop in the age of AI, how legal ops professionals can continue to level up their careers, and where the legal operations function should sit within organizations as in-house teams continue to evolve.

This year’s event provided a lot of food for thought—so I’ve distilled five of my own key takeaways here with the hope that these insights may help guide your own legal team’s path in the days and months ahead.

AI Is Everywhere (But It’s Not Always Impactful)

Artificial intelligence (AI) was undoubtedly a hot topic at the conference. Many vendors heavily promoted their generative AI features. But that doesn’t mean these products are all useful.

Brightflag’s own AI functionality is backed by over 10 years of research and refinement. But not every legal tech tool is backed by that same level of experience and testing. In fact, a lot of the AI being offered right now is not truly market-ready. It’s either a generic AI solution that was hastily added to a pre-existing feature, or it’s so cumbersome to implement and use as to be useless.

Tip: Ask for Product Demos and Case Studies

Don’t take every legal AI tool’s marketing claims at face value. Ask vendors to share case studies that show real-world use cases of similar legal departments.

Be sure to also test out legal tools with demos. For example, Brightflag invites prospects to schedule personalized demos of its platform (including its new AI-based Invoice Summary and Review features).

Gauge whether the product’s interface is intuitive during this meeting. AI features can be overly complex, so be wary if a tool seems complicated as a vendor explains it. If you’re struggling to understand it, chances are your team will find it confusing, too.

There’s an Art to Building a Legal Tech Stack

This year, CGI overflowed with vendors because so many legal tech tools are available today.

“The field of trusted legal tech vendor partners is more full than ever. Over 130+ vendors participated in the event – many with similar value propositions but each with special sauces they want you to try,” said Kelly Mickelson, Head of Legal Operations at Mars. “It is incredibly difficult to make sense of this crowded field.”

To navigate the market, Mickelson recommends keeping an open mind while considering what legal technology your team needs.

“I try to stay curious about how each tool could help our corporate legal department,” said Mickelson.

Tip: Create a Shopping List, But Keep an Open Mind

When faced with an overwhelmingly large vendor hall at a conference like CGI, it can be useful to jot down the 2-3 types of legal tech tool your in-house team wants to implement in the next couple of years. That way, you can make sure to check out vendors that offer the kinds of tools your team needs.

You can also take note of the specific vendors you’re interested in speaking to based on recommendations from other legal ops folks and online resources like G2 reviews.

Having a tailored list helps you stay focused and ensure you get to speak to all the vendors you want to at the event. But, it doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous too – you can always take the time to speak to vendors you haven’t interacted with or heard of before, and add some new ideas to your legal tech roadmap.

Legal Spend Is Under Unprecedented Financial Scrutiny

Many CGI speakers and attendees noted they’re feeling more pressure from their executive team to cut their legal budget, particularly on outside counsel costs.

“I heard from dozens of people that their outside counsel spend is under scrutiny — real scrutiny — for the first time ever,” said Kevin Cohn. “I’m talking about Fortune 500 companies as much as I am fast-growers.”

The 2024 ACC Chief Legal Officers (CLO) Survey reflects these feelings, too. In the study, 42% of CLOs said they were asked to cut legal costs this year, and 58% of legal departments reported that their outside counsel raised rates this year.

Tip: Use Budgeting Software to Manage Costs and Demonstrate Value

Manually tracking your legal spend is time-intensive, making it almost impossibly to understand whether you’re staying within your budget. Instead, use budgeting software like Brightflag with automation features to track your spending in real-time.

Our platform offers dashboards that compare actual spending to users’ legal budgets. The tool also automatically categorizes expenses into relevant buckets, such as vendors and practice areas. With this data, legal operations professionals can confidently show their leadership team how they’re controlling costs.

It’s Time to Define Legal Ops

Since the legal ops function first developed, many professionals in the field have felt pressured to do every project and task that comes across their desks.

“We needed to show value and prove we could play the game,” said Angela Mendenhall, Operations and Enablement Senior Manager at Zoom.

This pressure still exists today, especially as more and more legal departments face budget cuts. But as CGI attendees and speakers noted, now is the time for legal ops professionals to set boundaries and define their roles.

“A theme I heard over and over again revolved around the idea of defining ourselves,” said Mendenhall. “Now it is time to say ‘No’ to work we should not own or be involved with.”
By clearly defining legal ops’ scope, professionals can confidently decline tasks that fall outside their responsibilities. The goal isn’t to do less work but instead to focus more on high-impact legal ops tasks, like reducing unnecessary legal costs and identifying investments that will boost efficiency.

Tip: Outline Responsibilities With Your General Counsel

Meet with your General Counsel (GC) to discuss which areas legal ops should own. Be prepared to explain why you should have specific responsibilities based on your skills and results with past projects. Once you’ve outlined your area of accountability, create a new job description for your role and add it to your company’s knowledge base.

At the same time, identify your current work that falls outside this scope and who should now cover these tasks. Run these recommendations by your GC and delegate this work based on their input.

Legal Ops Networking Doesn’t Stop at CGI

For many CGI 2024 attendees, the best part of the conference was meeting fellow legal ops professionals and thought leaders.

“Invest time in meeting new people and exchanging ideas,” said Terrene Collins, Chief of Staff to the Chief Legal Officer at Panasonic North America. “The insights gained from these interactions can be unexpectedly profound and directly applicable to your own challenges.”

Kshitij Dua, Head of Legal Operations at HashiCorp shared the same love for CGI networking.

“I thoroughly enjoyed networking and connecting with peers at a deeper level at CGI’s ‘braindates’ and building new meaningful connections with industry experts,” said Dua.

Thankfully, this networking doesn’t have to stop when CGI ends. Keep connecting with legal ops peers through LinkedIn, virtual events, and coffee chats. This socializing will help you stay current on the latest trends, learn new ideas for approaching your work, and offer help when needed.

Tip: Commit to Networking Regularly

Whether you attended CGI 2024 or not, the digital world means that networking can be a regular part of your week, no matter where you are in the world. Angela Mendenhall shares the following networking tips:

“Join the discussion on LinkedIn, either in your own posts or by commenting on the posts of others like Kevin Cohn, Alex Su, Brittany Leonard, and Jenn McCarron, etc. You can also reach out to someone and set up a virtual or real coffee date, and join the conversation through the countless webinars that are put on every month. CLOC can accelerate the opportunity for these interactions, but they are possible every day.”

Make the Most of 2024 With CGI’s Insights

CGI 2024 provided valuable lessons on critical legal ops topics, from evaluating legal tech with scrutiny to budgeting more strategically and efficiently. Legal professionals who attended the conference have a strong foundation for strengthening their departments and careers over the rest of 2024.

With that said, knowing what to do in the months ahead isn’t the same as having the capacity to make these improvements. Many legal ops professionals are a team of one and need help optimizing their departments.

That’s where Brightflag comes in. Our platform automatically tracks and analyzes spend for in-house teams, so legal ops professionals can easily manage their budgets and collaborate effectively with their finance team.

Book a demo with us today to learn how Brightflag can help you save time on financial planning and uncover budgeting insights for your team.