By the Numbers: Observations from Inaugural Corporate Legal Operations Institute

May 6, 2016



“Innumerable are the lawyers who explain that they picked law over a technical field because they have ‘math block,’” wrote Judge Richard Posner, who is widely known for his unrivaled interest in law and economics.  However, for our evolving profession and in this “New Normal”, several workflows increasingly center on numbers and math.  This is especially true for corporate legal departments as they manage operations, technology, budgets, and outside counsel relationships. And, it is most likely why many legal departments are placing the business of running the legal department in the capable hands of a new, highly influential and non-practicing role on their staff: the legal department operations professional.  These new professionals are the true change agents, not only in their individual legal departments but throughout the industry.  Here are some observations, by the numbers, from a recent gathering of LDOs at the first ever Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Institute held May 2-4 in San Francisco.

  • Stephanie Corey from Flextronics shows her enthusiasm at the CLOC conference in San Fran on May 4th.

    Stephanie Corey from Flextronics shows her enthusiasm at the CLOC conference in San Fran on May 4th.

    6. CLOC was first formed six years ago, with many of its leaders and members hailing from legal departments in Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of innovation. Efficiency—through process improvements or the deployment of technology– is clearly in the DNA of these local companies and it flows to their legal departments and the operation professionals who were well represented at the Institute

  • 222+ . More than two hundred individuals with legal department operations titles and responsibilities registered for the Institute. Some of the 130+ corporate legal departments attending brought multiple team members to the Institute. These experienced LDO teams shared their lessons learned with the many attendees who were newcomers to this discipline (with 0-3 years experience) andrepresented not only the first, but the only, of their kind in the legal department.
  • 50. The Institute featured more than 50 sessions led by CLOC membership and vendors, including “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Legal Departments,” “Benchmarking: Core Legal Department Metrics,” and “The State of the Law and your e-Signature Policy.”  Heard at the “Developing a Legal Department Technology Roadmap” session: one of the greatest challenges facing in-house are the disparate processes and technologies within the department, leading to disconnected sharing and workflows.  This is an area where LDOs are encouraged to better work and communicate with vendors to ensure they understand the department’s technology vision.  CLOC attendees were encouraged to meet with the many sponsors in attendance, including many Thomson Reuters solutions, including Practice Point, Legal Tracker, Legal Managed Services and Contract Express, to make more informed technology choices and find the right solutions for their departments.
  • 90% and 5. LDOs role is to help implement improvements across the legal department and deliver change to relatively change-resistant legal professionals. During the “Driving Successful Change” session, 90% of the session attendees raised their hand when asked whether their department had gone through a “change project” in the
    The crowd gathered Monday morning as the CLOC started ticking.

    The crowd gathered Monday morning as the CLOC started ticking.

    last 12 months or anticipates a change project in the next 12 months.  Also shared at this session were the five “Ds” of successful transformation:

    • Define (what does success look like?);
    • Discover (what is the “as is” situation?);
    • Diagnose (where are the inefficiencies?);
    • Design (how are we going to do this – new technology/new team structure?); and
    • Deliver (the most important stage).
  • Billions and billions. During one of the final sessions looking at the future of the industry, an observation was made that the departments sitting in the room represented billions and billions of dollars of legal spend.  The departments were challenged to use those dollars to drive for progress within the industry.  What type of changes can LDOs usher?  Guidance included:  Inspire partner firms to be better rather than just slash spend;  dialogue with firms about needs and costs, let firms know you have viable alternatives.  And finally, changing the dynamic between in-house and outside counsel was only one way to deliver change and efficiency; LDOs should also invest in legal technology to empower your in-house team to complete more work in-house.

To learn more about legal department operations, the best practices delivered by these new professionals and the Thomson Reuters solutions they rely on, visit the Legal Department Operations Resources page