May 18, 2021
By Mike HavenReading Time: 5 minutes
Mike Haven’s Opening Keynote transcript from the the 2021 CLOC Global Institute.
I want to begin by thanking Mary O’Carroll. You have been so important to making CLOC what it is today: a force for positive change in our industry. I know I speak for all of us when I say how much I appreciate your immense contributions to this organization, the field of legal operations, and our industry. I look forward to building on this great foundation and to working with our amazing community to keep expanding and deepening our reach and impact.
And to all CLOC members and friends, let me just say how honored I am to be addressing you as your new President. I have been handed a torch that was lit by a small group of pioneers nearly a decade ago, and carried by great leaders before me. As the next torchbearer, but I will work with each of you to fan that flame and inspire a new generation of legal radicals dedicated to transforming our industry.
But this is not about me. It is about us. This is our movement. I may not be with you in person right now, but believe me, I feel so connected to all of you.
I remember well the early days of our community… It started as a little “book club” of like-minded people exchanging ideas and practices and supporting each other. Back then, most of what legal operations is today was still considered revolutionary. People thought we were crazy for even whispering some of the things that, today, everyone is shouting from the rooftops.
CLOC has had a huge role in the explosion of legal operations. The seed was planted right here. This community has helped countless legal teams and individual careers. The industry took notice, General Counsels took notice, and now, running legal departments as a business is considered just plain common sense.
To see how far we have come, just look at who is with us today. We have people joining from all over the world, representing a broad range of perspectives. Many of us are in legal operations, yes; but we have law firms, next-generation service providers, technology companies, educators. We have people just starting their careers and people, like me, who have been at this for long enough to remember how different it was just a few years ago.
Understanding our history
As we grow, it is even more important that we think about our purpose, our “Why?” We talk a lot about changing the legal industry. We don’t always talk enough about that “why?”
The truth is, that “why?” has evolved over the years. Legal operations really began at the turn of the century, when the dotcom bubble burst and CFOs struggling to preserve resources began to pay more attention to legal spend. Back then, the “why?” was pretty simple: find ways to save money.
Fast forward to the Great Recession in 2008… legal ops gained more steam as legal departments began to push for more meaningful changes to the way their teams worked. The field began to evolve and broaden and the “why” became: how can we do it better, faster, more efficiently?
The next stage of our evolution came around 2013, when those lonely, isolated legal operators began to come together and coalesce into a community. This was the book club that ultimately became CLOC in 2016. This emerging community was defined by a fierce commitment to sharing, to innovation, and to mutuality.
I’ll never forget our first Institute in San Francisco in 2016. It was a magical moment in time, a group of 500 legal pioneers together in one room, about to embark on a journey that would transform a massive industry. We started to look at things more holistically, stepping out of a narrow legal operations perspective. Our “why?” expanded again; from supporting individual roles and legal departments, to how can we make our industry work better in every dimension?
That brings us to now. Today, I believe that we are entering a new stage, not just for legal operations but for CLOC itself. We must adjust our purpose, our focus, for the next great leap forward.
Reaching across the ecosystem
I believe that our mission must include, and address, the entire ecosystem more fully than it has in the past. We cannot be splintered, siloed, divided, conflicted. We cannot afford to become insular.
Think about what CLOC does best. When I talk to people about what defines this community, I keep hearing one thing. When you strip away everything else, we are problem solvers. We are the people who ALWAYS believe there is a better way. And we work tirelessly to find it.
In that spirit, we have to work together, across industry lines, to bust silos and build bridges across the ecosystem. As we move forward, our problems are only becoming more complex. To solve them, we have to act as one.We have to stop relying on our own limited toolsets and start pulling in other experts and voices. No one has all the answers. Almost everything requires a combination of skills and approaches.
That is how we will find the best answers. That is how we will uncover the next wave of breakthrough ideas and solutions that will drive success for everyone who works in our industry. That is how we will live up to our vision, to redefine the business of law.
Making our industry more inclusive, diverse, and equitable
This brings me to the single most vital area where I believe we have to make progress. We must push harder, much harder, to make our industry more representative, inclusive, and equitable. When it comes to cultural and racial diversity, our industry remains stuck in the past. We have to stop asking for change and start demanding it. We cannot keep accepting the unacceptable. We need real progress, not the slow, crawling pace that we see today.
I love that we are see more companies using their market power to push for change, for example by only working with firms that meet certain standards for diversity and inclusion. That matters and makes a real difference. Realigning incentives and pressures within the industry is not enough, however.
We have to look at access at all levels, particularly when it comes to the pipeline of young people entering the field. We have to make Legal more compelling and accessible for a new generation of diverse professionals. This means finding ways to find and influence talented young people who previously would not have considered, or been considered by, the legal field. There is a lot of good work being done there, including by my own department at Intel, but we need so much more.
When we bring more diverse candidates forward into our space, we are making a long-term investment in shifting the entrenched systems and culture of our industry. That matters so much.We have shown we have the collective will and power to alter the trajectory of our industry in other areas. Let’s work together to find ways to push Legal forward in this, the most important challenge of all.
Living up to our purpose
Ultimately, when we talk about our purpose, our “Why?”, we are really asking ourselves a simple question: What do we really care about? Solving problems in our businesses, working with our ecosystem partners to find new answers, finding ways to work smarter or faster… of course those things matter. You could call these “matters of the mind” – and they are important for sure. We have made a lot progress on those over the years.
But I want to talk about some things you could call “matters of the heart”: justice, fairness, equity, representation, empathy. These matter even more. And as we have been mostly focused on our matters of the mind while ramping up this emerging field, we have not done enough to further these matters of the heart, to tackle these critical problems. Any version of our purpose, of our “why?”, that doesn’t put these issues front and center is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
It is time, past time, that we push these issues into the spotlight. As a community, as an industry, and frankly as a society, we are at a turning point. We have built CLOC into a powerful organization. It is time to get real about how we use that power and reach.
The story of CLOC is the story of change. We have always evolved, grown, transformed. This is a community that is built on mutual support, selflessness, and the sharing of ideas. It belongs to each of you just as much as it belongs to me, or anyone else on the leadership team. We are just stewards; you are everything. It is up to all of us to write the future together.