Time to CLOC Back In – the Live Institute Returns
Last week at the 2022 CLOC Global Institute in Las Vegas, you could feel the excitement to finally be back in person. Whether sitting in on breakout sessions, watching demonstrations in the exhibit hall, or chatting in the hallway with peers – there was an overwhelming sense of community. Legal operations continues to grow and position itself as an industry within the legal industry. The role is evolving and dynamic, with different responsibilities in each organization. Connecting legal to an organization’s leadership and business units helps drive transformation and escalate the value of legal operations.
Below are five major trends explored at the event:
Change management is accelerating: The legal industry remained stagnant for a very long time. Legal has traditionally been viewed as the “department of no” with a risk averse mindset. Digital evolution started with the use of AI tools like TAR for eDiscovery review. Given the rapid acceleration of tech and innovation that has occurred recently, more legal professionals now accept and trust the use of AI to help sort through data. This next phase includes determining how leveraging the right tech and partnerships can allow the legal department to garner valuable insights that inform better business decisions and increase profitability.
This is where change management comes into play. While a broad term, this generally refers to helping organizations embrace change in a time of transition. Legal operations professionals can assist with this feat by implementing optimal policies, training, and oversight. This ensures people understand why new processes and tools are necessary while also confirming compliance. For example, privacy laws that influence several functions are popping up around the globe. Automating document retention and contract review can be two ways that legal can work with other departments to help remain compliant with new regulations while also improving outdated processes. Change management can be an uphill battle, but having strong internal talent and leveraging external partnerships makes it easier to implement, explain, and sustain changing processes.
Creating roadmaps for new initiatives: When setting goals for the year, legal should determine what is valuable to the C-suite to create roadmaps for necessary tech adoption and process changes. These roadmaps should be customized for every organization, and can change depending on successes or failures. Make sure to designate individuals that employees can turn to for training and questions.
Also determine what KPIs to set and metrics to track, and include these in the roadmap. Examples include how many deals legal helped sales close or any reduced litigation exposure from removing ineffective contract clauses. Things like this illustrate success along with cost-savings metrics. Simply put, knowing how the organization measures value increases the legal department’s visibility which results in improved data optimization and tech scaling capabilities. This is another area where it may make sense to bring in an external provider that offers solutions with customizable dashboards, data libraries to benchmark against, and ongoing support for analyzing and presenting data.
Having the right people fosters successful automation: Whether having talent in-house or turning to external consultancies, organizations need the right legal operations experts who know how to implement their tools effectively. Automation is key and allows the legal team to focus more on high-level tasks such as strategy and risk management. Without the right people in place, there is a greater chance that people will use new tools incorrectly. Many sessions explored the need for integration capabilities that help retrieve insights from even the hardest places (such as unstructured data sources), so that will be a desired commodity in the coming years.
Telling a story with data to demonstrate the legal department’s value: Data is a source of truth as to how an organization is performing, and legal operations is the gatekeeper to this knowledge. In order to effectively tell a story with your data, the right processes and tools must be in place. Evaluate whether the organization has the capabilities and expertise in-house or if collaborating with a legal operations consultant would reach the end result faster with less internal lift.
Talk to leadership to identify what information they want from the data. Prioritizing such initiatives will likely result in better buy-in for future projects and tech investments, allowing legal to continually innovate. Identifying where actionable data resides is the first step. Speakers noted that three major hubs are eBilling, eDiscovery, and contract management tools. Next, discover ways to repurpose data to inform other initiatives. For example, legal billing invoices can offers insights to help better understand spend allocation, forecast budgeting, track diversity efforts, or rewrite outside counsel guidelines.
This is also where utilizing CLM software can be extremely valuable, as many struggle with managing or analyzing contracts effectively. Going through your contracts is important not only to implement better classification habits – but also to pinpoint inefficient or litigious clauses, draft better templates, determine if obligations can be prepaid at lower rates, reduce storage needs, remain compliant under new regulations, and quantify risk.
Legal operations professionals are a new breed that will transform the industry. One speaker noted that 78 percent of legal ops professionals are viewed as being cross-functional within their organizations. Because this is such a new area, many are creating their own roles and adjusting responsibilities as they go along. The focus should be on where legal operations teams can fill gaps and what creative solutions will help promote buy-in, effectuate meaningful transformation, and develop the necessary change management skills to get the best ROI and lessen operational pain points.
Many legal operations professionals have strong eDiscovery backgrounds and are exploring how these skills can translate into other areas of the business – a notable one being contract management. Just like managing a large eDiscovery matter, it takes solid project management skills, the ability to create repeatable processes, and an understanding of how different technologies can be leveraged. While some have a legal background, others do not. This is why CLOC is key to fostering collaboration between innovative minds and molding the industry further. Members had an opportunity to hear stories about legal operations successes and failures, ask questions, and connect with individuals in this space to tap into collective innovation.
This is an exciting time in the history of the legal industry as the operations community grows. At CLOC, this enthusiasm was present in every session. With the role of legal operations expanding, people can work more efficiently and are fulfilled in their roles, cost savings emerge, and legal can finally be viewed as a strategic business partner crucial to an organization’s transformation.