July 24, 2019
By LaTrece JohnsonReading Time: 5 minutes
I became a member of CLOC when I joined Adobe in 2015, after working in financial services for five years. I attended two of the CLOC Institutes as a legal operations professional; however, this was my first time attending as a CLOC employee, which gave me a different perspective that served to reinforce why CLOC is so important to this community of professionals. In prior years, I attended CLOC’s Institutes in order to learn how to help my organization in areas of knowledge management, e-billing, metrics and dashboards, and outside counsel. This year, I was focused on delivering best-in-class content, listening to engaging conversations among our attendees, and building relationships with people that I wanted to learn from.
Through my experience as both a member and employee, I continue to be impressed at how the growth and excitement around CLOC continue to build as thousands come together to talk about the latest trends in legal operations.
This year, the Vegas Institute kicked off with CLOC’s newest board member, Jason Barnwell of Microsoft, moderating the General Counsel panel that included Nigel Bond of Westpac, Dorian Daley of Oracle, and Julie Gruber of Gap Inc. The discussion began with a panel of General Counsels sharing how their career journeys led them to legal operations and the impact of hiring business professionals to drive operations for a legal department. Each story helped to set the stage for the next 2 and a half days, as over 2,000 attendees connected with their peers, collaborated with thought leaders and walked away with actionable insight to drive efficiency and transformation in their own organizations.
In many sessions, every seat was filled and attendees lined the walls. Everyone was ready to learn the latest in legal operations process, trends, and technology! The days were long; but, the content, collaboration, and conversations kept us on point and moving throughout the day. Here are some key takeaways and inspirations that I’d like to share after attending this year’s Institute.
1. Data is a powerful resource to drive impact.
Data is key to our ecosystem and it allows organizations to measure and find deeper insights for efficiencies. Data enables departments to gain agility, identify meaningful growth opportunities, improve operations, and transform businesses. We all have access to millions of data points, but we’re using them in completely different ways. While some organizations use the data in quantitative ways to control spend, others are using data in qualitative ways to calculate matter outcomes and results, manage risk, and monitoring intranet search results. During the event, many sessions focused on best practices for data collection and analysis. Sessions like What’s Get Measured – Legal Ops & Law Firms Understanding and Aligning Each Other’s Metrics and Data-Driven Decisions in Practice had global legal professionals from different industries discussing the challenges of too much imperfect data and provided practical opportunities to use the data that we already have access to in different ways that drive decisions, encourage innovation, and transform organizations.
2. Innovation is more than just technology, it’s ideas, people, and processes too.
For the last 10 years, we have seen corporate legal departments disrupt the traditional practices of business and law. They have shattered the barriers between legal and business functions by driving value for their organizations and by helping their departments operate more efficiently than ever before.
This disruption has forced the legal ecosystem to think differently about technology, budgeting, financial data, marketing, product development, process automation, data, and information security, operations, and even recruiting. This year, new sessions, like the Design Sprint workshop, were offered to help facilitate the need to change the thought process. It was no surprise the lead challenge selected during the Design Sprint workshop was focused on data and measurement. Like many sessions at the Institute, the Design Sprint Workshop offered a set of tools that could be used immediately to identify a goal, solicit ideas, gain insights from key stakeholders and vet ideas in a “trust-free” environment. By utilizing the lessons learned during these sessions, legal professionals can effectively transform critical business questions into ideas that come to life.
3. Legal Operations isn’t just for those with prior legal experience.
More than ever before, corporate legal departments are operating as a service organization. Sessions like “Building and Optimizing a Legal Ops Program” and “Building Resilient Teams” emphasized that leaders should continue to evaluate the skills of their employees (and potential candidates) instead of just prior legal experience if they want to build an impactful legal operations team.
The legal ecosystem is no longer limited to those that practice of law. Like myself, CLOC’s Institute attendees come into this industry with experience in business, finance, operations, consulting, marketing, communications, and even hospitality. This diverse workforce shows that this industry is no longer just for lawyers, rather for professionals with key operational skills like project and program management, executive presence, change management, thought leadership, presentation skills, business acumen, and resiliency.
4. Ready, Set … Collaborate!
Discussions and impromptu meetings were happening in every corner of the Bellagio every day. Law firms, legal service providers, and legal operations professionals spoke freely about where their organizations were struggling, how they are overcoming impediments and what more still needs to be done.
The high level of engagement demonstrated that barriers and silos are breaking down, that our interests are becoming more aligned and that now is the perfect time to collaborate and share findings. Sessions with the highest attendance were those that focused on building stronger partnerships between outside counsel and In-house to achieve common goals.
5. Sponsors are Contributors to our mission.
Over the course of several months, I had the opportunity to work with several of CLOC’s sponsors to curate content and session ideas for this year’s breakout sessions. While some attendees (including myself in prior years) may argue that sponsors and vendors are just trying to make their sales pitch, I had the opportunity like many others to see them listen to our challenges, propose solutions that weren’t just related to their products, and contribute valuable materials and resources to our CLOC community and attendees. Resources like SimpleLegal’s A Blueprint for Modern Legal Departments, Baker McKenzie’s Diversity & Inclusion Maturity Model, or even HBR’s Maturity Model Index are great examples of resources and insight beyond what can be retrieved in conversations.
Each of these providers is working to raise the bar for the legal industry. The industry is growing so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up on trends and the latest technology. It was great to explore all the options and different resources on the market, all in one place! The Institute has always been the best place to see and compare what’s on the market to increase efficiency, cost savings and “do more with less”.
6. Everyone is still figuring it out.
When CLOC released its 12 Core Competencies Reference Model, it gave the community a roadmap for how a legal operations function and an organization, can grow over time. It also provided areas in which an organization can optimize their operations by measuring and evaluating their maturity within prescribed core functions. The CLOC Core Competencies model has been adopted by many members and partners alike as a roadmap to success. CLOC Legal Operations Maturity Model: The Right Way to Level Up was rated as one of the most valuable sessions for three of CLOC’s Institutes. During the maturity model session, attendees were given insight into how to measure core functions in a legal department and received access to industry benchmarking.
The Vegas Institute hosted over 100 speakers from different industries who shared their stories of transformation, success, and failure during their individual road to legal operations success and excellence. While they have insight that others wish they could have, many of those leaders are humble enough to admit that even they aren’t experts. Their professional growth lies in what they have learned from others who have attended the CLOC Institutes or participate actively as a CLOC member both for the first time or over the last 4 years. That is what made this event so powerful.
I’m so excited to be part of CLOC and to help change the industry through our members, Institute and partners! There is no better time to be a part of this movement we call legal operations.
About the CLOC Community
In the last five years, the CLOC member community has grown to 2,400+ members with 1,000+ companies represented. Industry leaders and legal professionals have paved the path for legal operations to be embraced by organizations and business leaders around the world.
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