clem-onojeghuo-122041Any time you pick your head up from the daily work you’re doing in the legal industry, “change” is the drumbeat that you hear.

Nowhere was that more apparent to me than at last week’s CLOC Institute – for those of you who aren’t familiar with CLOC, it’s the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. They’re a relatively new group in the industry, bringing together legal operations professionals for networking, education, to share best practices, and really, to drive change. But they’re more than just legal ops – in fact, their mission states quite clearly that this drive for change involves working with “other core corporate legal industry players” in addition to legal operations professionals. Their goal is to “optimize the legal service delivery models needed by small, medium and large legal departments to support their clients,” and they recognize that this can only be done together. 

At the second annual CLOC Institute, you felt this sense of camaraderie and collaboration throughout the event. CLOC President & CEO (who works with her impressive leadership team while pulling double duty as the Chief of Staff/Director of Legal Operations for NetApp), Connie Brenton kicked off the conference by telling us to:

Stop thinking about how we can fit into the world around us. Start thinking about how we can change the world around us.”

We were further fired up when she pointed out that:

My CLOC friends are some of the kindest people I know, but honestly, we are pitbulls.”

I’ve found my people.

I learned so much over the two days I was at the conference (the event ran two and a half, but I had to head home early on a red eye) that it will take me a few days to digest everything so that I can effectively share it with you. I’ll be doing that in with some recap posts from some of my favorite sessions, in which you’ll really see the theme of collaboration and teamwork take shape. In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with a few takeaways:

On Big Change & What’s Holding Us Back…

  • Part of enabling change is honest conversation. Not all departments welcome everyone to the table. “We cannot continue to function in a lawyer/nonlawyer world. We must embrace all professionals to effect change.” Lucy Bassli, Assistant General Counsel, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Corporation. “We’re not seeing success because we’re still living in a silo and not drawing on the expertise we need.”
  • A barrier to change is that things are pretty good for those making money in this market, so why should they drive change?
  • When you incent the billable hour, you’re incenting firms to keep billing. It’s enticing, but it has a negative effect on culture.
  • There is no silver bullet, but everything that is being discussed across the groups (law firms, clients, technology providers, regulators and law schools) will help to bring about change.
  • (Some) firms don’t want to remove the cushion that not knowing their pricing provides them.
  • Firms’ compensation structures are a barrier to change. In firms with no billable hour (they exist), the compensation structure drives efficiency and a better work product. There’s no origination credit, so there’s no hoarding.
  • The legal industry has to get underneath the fear that underlays the people the are blocking change.

On the Future of Law, with Richard Susskind…

  • How can you change the will of a moving car? Set up a new vehicle.
  • The legal sector is going through three stages – denial, re-sourcing and disruption. We’re currently at the end of the denial stage.
  • Susskind asks “Do you want to compete with machines, or build them?” If you build them, you can redefine the way law is practiced, and manage how challenges are met.
  • US law firms are at a competitive disadvantage. The US market will have to liberalize to become more flexible because we’re currently squeezing new models into an old world.
  • At a certain point, it’s necessary to stop talking and start doing – “people are writing the same article over and over.” We need to stop writing and start doing.

On Turning Innovative Ideas into Results…

  • “Disrupt or be disrupted” – Lisa Leong, Ohten APAC
  • Telstra had three essential ingredients for success: a culture of innovation, legal operations with capability and accountability, and an innovation agenda. You’ll want to stay tuned for this recap, since their strategy is smart, and replicable.

On Managing Timekeeper Rates…

  • Data and tools are changing the conversations that clients are having with their outside counsel, and having these conversations can strengthen your relationship. If you’re sharing data, it’s a win-win, even if you don’t end up with the right price.
  • Clients are looking for a shift in the conversation: What is the value of services, not the hour of your time? Don’t measure the value of a matter against the billable hour.

On Artificial Intelligence…

  • It’s about leveraging technology to make something better/faster/cheaper in order to solve a problem – it’s not about “how do we do this ‘AI’ thing.”
  • Using AI to predict outcomes may not replace humans, but it may help them to identify their own biases.
  • Legal ops are more likely to purchase AI through their service providers (outside counsel) than directly.

On Law Firm Data Security…

  • Law firms should be teaching their users about data security repetitively, not annually.
  • Even though law firm data may not be regulated, the data that they get from their clients IS often regulated.
  • Subject matter expertise can sometimes trump a firm’s handling of data security, though that is happening less frequently.

It’s an exciting time to be in the legal industry, and I really love the opportunity to be working with such smart, talented professionals across functions to discuss and drive change. I can’t wait to see what’s next.