5 Takeaways from the 2017 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Conference

5 Takeaways from the 2017 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Conference
5 Takeaways from the 2017 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Conference

Last year, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) hosted their first conference and attracted nearly 500 attendees, ranging from legal operations executives and in-house counsel to law firm attorneys and executives, vendors, and consultants.

This year, in just their second event,  CLOC enjoyed participation by nearly 1000 attendees for their May 9-11 conference in Las Vegas, approximately double the attendance of the same conference last year. There were seven different education tracks that were compressed into an intensive two-and-a-half-day conference.  The sessions were very well attended, and in some cases, like those covering the hot topics of AI and Analytics, were standing room only.

Some reflections from the conference:

  1. Industry vendors are taking a keen interest in legal operations

For many veterans of the legal industry, it’s often said that it is easy to tell how serious an organization is taking a lawsuit based upon the counsel they hire.  The more serious the claim and the greater the exposure, the higher-end the retained counsel. For conferences such as this, one could make a similar deduction. I saw more CEOs and Executive Management from vendors in one location than I have at one conference, potentially ever.  For most conferences, this is not the case. That was eye-opening, and a testament to the importance and power of this conference.

I saw more CEOs and Executive Management from vendors in one location than I have at one conference, potentially ever.

  1. Law firm representation should have included more executive management

Many of the law firms could have benefited from more executive committee partners attending. Most of the attendees from law firms were those who already understand the changing dynamics of the market, the market forces like legal process outsourcing (LPO) and automation that are impacting the profession, and the various strategies that legal operations professionals are leveraging to run their departments in a more efficient, effective manner.

The people who needed to hear this directly were, by and large, not in attendance, and for many firms, that represents an incredible missed opportunity.

  1. Additional focus on Legal Department performance metrics is needed 

As someone who worked in Analytics for several years, I’m thrilled to see this very important skill set finally gaining broader acceptance, buy-in, and use inside legal departments. Outside counsel attorneys should always be asking their client how they are being evaluated, and there were some great presentations on how legal departments are using analytics to measure and evaluate outside counsel.

I may have missed it, but I didn’t see any sessions focusing on how in-house lawyers were being measured and evaluated. This is incredibly important for outside counsel attorneys to understand.  When I coached lawyers, I’d tell them to always ask how they were going to be measured and evaluated, and then follow-up by asking their in-house counterpart what metrics were being used to evaluate their performance.

If the goal of outside counsel is to truly make your in-house counterpart look like a rock star, then it’s critical to understand how they are being measured and evaluated, as well, and manage to those expectations. If this was indeed not covered, it’s a missed opportunity for CLOC at an otherwise great conference.

  1. The automation of repetitive legal tasks is increasing

A common element of many sessions was that the legal departments have, over many years, inherited numerous functions that should be probably be handled by the business, especially on a self-service model. This is reflective in the number of sessions that dealt with AI and automation.

We are seeing a dramatic increase in compliance departments that are creating self-service applications for the business, where their guidance and expertise is applied at scale inside an application that the business can utilize on demand. By shifting this to a self-service model, compliance officers can focus on the broader, more strategic issues rather than all the daily minutiae that is better served at scale in an automated fashion.

This is now extending into other aspects of the business, such as with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and master service agreements (MSAs) that are now increasingly automated. Gone are the days where senior in-house attorneys with 20+ years of experience are spending multiple hours reading, analyzing, and negotiating clauses in a document like an NDA that has a 99.5% chance of never being in dispute.

The combination of machine learning and expert systems offers a very powerful and efficient combination for organizations looking to have their attorneys focus on the most unique and critical problems, and choosing to automate as many of the repetitive knowledge tasks as possible.

  1. Legal teams are turning to technology to create operations wins 

In-house counsel especially are increasingly looking for more efficient and productive ways of getting their work done, and law firms have a unique opportunity that is within a window that will eventually close. Based on conversations I’ve had over my career working with legal departments, most corporate legal departments do not want to be in the software business. In-house teams would rather the law firms came to them with a technology-enabled solution that solved their very specific problem(s) in a way that offered consistent results and predictable pricing.

However, if firms choose not to adapt their offerings to the changing needs and wants of their client, then legal departments will likely develop solutions on their own and use a combination of legal process outsourcing and technology to build solutions to address very specific problems.

I didn’t see this listed on any of the sports books at The Bellagio during the conference but, if I had to wager, I’d say that next year’s CLOC conference will once again double, and we could see more 2,000 attendees. That’s a testament to the impact that legal operations professionals are having on their legal departments and the business of law as whole.

If I was a partner in a law firm, this is a conference I would need to attend, and need my fellow partners to attend as well.

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