About the author

Mike Haven

Head of Legal Operations at Intel and President of CLOC

Keep Pushing for Change in Legal

By Mike Haven

Page Reading Time: 5 minutes

In legal operations, we have an orientation towards constant improvement. That restless spirit, the perpetual desire to do better, is the beating heart of our movement. It is what makes this community great.

We have made huge strides in how we organize and align our teams, bring technology to bear, connect and share information across our community. But no one stops going. We do not sit back, celebrate our accomplishments, and stop trying to push into new areas.

Our vision and mission as an organization reflect that ambition, that drive. “We seek to redefine the business of law.” It is not only about doing it better; it is about doing it right. That spirit is more important now than ever. Because for all the progress we have made, we still see elements of our industry that remain far behind.

This is no time to stop moving forward

This is a strange but exciting moment. Many things that we considered out of reach or outright impossible are now coming to pass. But even as we race forward in some areas, we remain stuck in others. The future is now, but it is not evenly distributed.

The in-house community has improved rapidly over the past decade within our teams and organizations. But we still have a vast frontier of opportunity in expanding that community, in our connections, in how we link up and engage with other players across the ecosystem. We see signs of progress there, but no real change yet. When it comes to another critical area – diversity and inclusion – we still are nowhere near where we need to be. We see promising ideas, an increased level of interest and commitment, but have yet to realize a substantial return on all those efforts. The actual pace of change remains painfully slow.

As we confront these important and impactful elements of our industry that stubbornly resist progress, we have a choice to make. Do we simply accept it? Do we go back to the conventional wisdom of a couple of years ago, and say, “Well it’s just too soon, it’s just too hard”?

I think too highly of our industry and the CLOC global community to accept that. It’s just not good enough. We will not tolerate mediocrity and stasis.

We are entering a new stage

Far from resting on our accomplishments, I see us entering a critical new stage of our journey. When we began years ago, CLOC was about “standing up.” We were establishing the basics of the field and spreading the word. We defined and shared the core principles and started building our community.

Then, we went into the “growing up” stage. That is the path we have been on for the last few years, as we spread in importance and influence within and outside our organizations. We have added depth, sophistication and scale.

Now it is time for a new stage. I call it “showing up.” This is the phase we are just beginning, and I believe it will be defined by how we use our strong foundation and base of influence to make our industry a better, more connected, more inclusive space.

I want you to join me in raising our sights, in redefining what is possible. Yes, these are hard challenges; but the only way we will ever make real advances is if we collectively demand change. It all starts with that intent, that determination, that mindset.

We have worked hard to earn our place in the legal industry. Those of you who have been in legal operations for a while know what an uphill journey it has been to win this level of belief, credibility, and acceptance. Now it is time to start doing something with it. We used to worry about proving how we fit in. Now, it’s time to push the industry towards our vision of a more equitable, representative, connected, dynamic legal sector.

Reaching across the ecosystem

We need to explore how we can make our industry work better in every dimension. It’s not enough to simply focus on our own backyard; we need identify, strengthen and leverage the connections.

We have so much work to do to bring our industry together. That is the next big frontier, the next big wave. And that will only be possible if we step out of our own teams, and in many cases our comfort zones, to engage in real conversations with our partners, vendors, law schools, and others. It means pulling in experts and voices very different from our own.

This is one of the clearest lessons we need to take from the pandemic: That we solve problems much better together than we do separately. When we have big, complex challenges, we need to bring different skills, perspectives, and capabilities to bear. This will not be easy – but it is the best way, in fact the only way, to take our industry to the next level.

Making our industry more inclusive, diverse, and equitable

That brings me to the other area that I want to stretch into: Diversity and inclusion. It’s important that we be clear in calling out the lack of progress and impact here. We need to unify in moving from words to actions.

I love that companies are starting to use their market power for good in this area, for example by demanding that law firms become more diverse. That is hugely important and we need to see more of it, but that alone is not enough. Simply realigning incentives and market pressures is not enough.

We must look at access to our industry. How do people, particularly young people, find their way into the field? Some of these paths are too restrictive and need to be expanded to be more inclusive of others from different backgrounds. How can we reach, educate, and engage a whole new generation of more diverse talented legal professionals?

They need us… but we need them more. We need new thinking, new perspectives, new backgrounds in Legal. We need to reflect the world around us if we are to be effective in serving that world.

Our organization should have an important role in the fight to make our industry more representative. We are uniquely equipped to serve as a forum for big ideas and practices that span across the industry. That type of information and idea exchange is at the very heart of our mission and historical focus. I want us to be the place where the best ideas and promising new approaches in D&I are innovated, discussed, shared, and put into practice.

We win when we work together

I want to close with a reminder that this community is defined by innovation, collaboration, and above all, persistence. That tireless spirit, that voice that keeps telling us: We can do it better. That is what has made us great in the past. It is what will fuel this next wave of legal operations progress.

This community is not about me, or those on the board, it is entirely about you. You are the members, the volunteers, the innovators, the fighters who make CLOC what it is. Our greatness, our power, lives in all of you. I want to challenge each of you to be an active part of shaping our collective future. We all have a role in making our industry better, fairer, and more connected. We all have an opportunity to be on the right side of history.

I know that, if we work together, there is no limit to how much we can achieve.