We’re a few weeks out now from the CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) Institute in London, and I’m finally jumping into some recaps. There was some truly excellent content during the conference, and not just for legal operations folks, but with transferable lessons for everyone in the legal industry. Over the next few weeks, I’ll dive into a few of the sessions and look at what we discussed, starting with Steve Harmon’s presentation on the Evolving Role of the Corporate Legal Department & the Implications for Legal Operations Teams. Harmon is the Deputy General Counsel at Cisco and General Counsel at Elevate, and a CLOC board member.

Harmon’s presentation had some great takeaways, which I’ll address in a future post, but I’d like to look first at the five trends he identified that we should be watching.

  1. Radical transparency: Google and other companies are “organizing all the world’s information” so Harmon said that the challenge for law is a greater demand for access to information. Clients will demand access, so law firms will have to make it available.
  2. Rules-based systems: Self-driving cars are rules-based systems, and if cars can self-drive, it’s naive to believe that there’s no room for machine-learning or AI in the legal industry. Machine learning has seen a fundamental shift to data instead of rules, and the legal industry has access to a tremendous amount of data.
  3. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data: There is the misconception that machine learning has to be perfect – people often compare it to the standard of perfection. But it just has to be better than a person, and a person is never perfect.
  4. Analytics and metrics everywhere: With an increase in data, this should not be a surprise.
  5. OpenSource negotiation: Fewer idiosyncratic fights.

One of my favorite points that Harmon made came towards the end of his presentation, and that was the idea that “trying harder is not a solution,” which he illustrated with a child riding a bicycle with a square wheel. We may have always made square wheels, and we may believe that if we only push a little harder, we’ll be able to ride the bike successfully with them. But is that the best way? No. Is it the most efficient way? No. Will we make mistakes on our way to finding the round wheel? Probably – maybe we’ll end up with a triangle wheel first. But working together, embracing technology and collaboration, and staying open minded will be the keys to future success.