A record-breaking number of legal professionals turned out to attend the 2023 CLOC Global Institute in Las Vegas in May, but it was more than attendance numbers that felt different about this year’s event.
CLOC released its “Core 12” functional areas of operational excellence — guidance in these areas will be instrumental as more in-house practitioners than last year had a stronger point of view on their needs, which points to the broader maturation of the corporate legal technology landscape.
Here are some additional highlights.
It’s no surprise that generative AI was a major theme and topic of discussion throughout the conference; yet it’s ironic that artificial intelligence was the driving factor that brought together human legal intelligence for what CLOC dubbed “brain dates.” These ad hoc discussions brought together legal operators and legal tech providers on a range of topics, from developing a 90-day operator plan to the impact of AI on legal tech.
One of the most highly attended events was a supersession on generative AI that was packed with hundreds of people — standing room only. Data privacy, security, and accuracy continue to be a concern, particularly with the proliferation of standalone point solutions. While some organizations are already piloting and using generative AI often driven by their enterprise IT department to support the overall business, most organizations seem to be taking a cautious “wait and see” approach.
The prevailing sentiment for many in-house legal departments with whom I spoke was a general sense of urgency to understand the potential benefits and risks of generative AI — including privacy, security, and governance implications — without making any rushed or reactive decisions in the immediate term. However, most identify a need for Corporate and Legal leadership to develop and communicate guidelines for AI use within their individual organizations.
I anticipate more adoption will occur as technology providers thoughtfully weave in the power of generative AI throughout their platforms so that security, intellectual property, and governance are maintained.
Walking around the Exhibit Hall last year, it seemed like every other booth was pushing contract lifecycle management (CLM). This year, the CLM hype was replaced by an abundance of automation and workflow offerings. This makes sense since most CLMs are based on early efforts to apply automation and AI. Where there’s already a blurry line between CLMs and workflow tools, I found myself having trouble differentiating between a CLM and an automation tool that harnesses the power of AI.
Workflow solutions were heavily featured, but can standalone solutions compete with holistic platforms? This is where partnerships and integrations with other core cloud-based tools can have a significant positive impact on legal operations.
A recurring theme throughout the event was that legal departments still use multiple point solutions within their department. No single tool seems to meet the myriad needs of legal ops professionals. Further, depending on the size of the organization and its industry, the mix of those solutions can differ.
Many legal departments found success with the combination of a legal-focused document management system and enterprise legal management/matter management. These two solutions together can be greater than the sum of their parts and cover a majority of needs for most legal teams.
<div class="blog-post-callout-container"><a href="https://www.law.com/2023/05/04/legal-operations-success-series-session-2-the-roi-of-legal-tech-how-to-make-the-business-case-for-law-department-tech-investment/?pc=nd" target="_blank"><img src="https://p1.aprimocdn.net/netdocuments/3d4645cd-15c5-44f1-993f-b013014e886e/originalfile/legal-ops-webcast-series-blog-ad.jpg" alt="Upcoming NetDocuments Webcast for Legal Ops Success Series Session 2" width="auto" height="auto"></a></div>
However, because organizations are commonly using multiple tech solutions together to meet their needs, it is important to build a comprehensive legal technology strategy and roadmap that considers not only the “vertical” legal department technology stack (e.g., e-signature, ELM/matter management, and DMS), but also how those tools fit within the enterprise-wide “horizontal” solutions (e.g., M365 and Teams, PowerBI, and Salesforce). One legal ops director mentioned a guiding principle of implementing “the minimum effective dose” of solutions that meet their core needs.
The value of integrated tech was highlighted during a Solution Lab panel discussion between Gregg McConnell, Director of Legal Operations & Innovation at Corteva, Ron Warman, Partner at Affinity Consulting, and Dan Hauck, Chief Product Officer at NetDocuments. They emphasized that to further elevate their operations, legal teams should be considering how they can continue to improve efficiencies in document-based processes across the legal document lifecycle. Gregg shared his experience building the legal operations team and capability at Corteva with NetDocuments as the technology hub. Ron shared how Corteva created a seamless workflow with the NetDocuments DMS and integrations from Onit, Black Hills, and Memotech.
And for everyone inspired by IN-Q at this year’s CLOC, here is additional inspiration from Reid Cram, Product Marketing Manager at NetDocuments, re: the legal tech landscape:
<pre>In the realm where law and tech align,
A dance unfolds, a partnership defined.
Bits and bytes, codes and rulings merge,
As legal minds adapt, their expertise surge.
AI's embrace of power bold,
Replaces repetitive work of old.
Automating agreements, disputes decrease,
Efficiency gained, legal processes find peace.</pre>
<pre>In this landscape where law and tech unite,
The future unfolds, a path shining bright.
Legal minds embrace, with curiosity aflame,
Navigating the digital, an ever-evolving game.</pre>
After shaking the dust off for in-person events this year, no one left CLOC wondering about the direction and need for legal operations.
CLOC 2024 is moving to the Aria to accommodate greater capacity and, hopefully, shorten the walking commute from hotel room to conference floor (although I’m sure there will still be plenty of walking required). Until we meet again next year, I look forward to seeing what else will unfold as legal operations and the evolving AI landscape continue to grow and mature.
Let’s keep the conversation going — join me with FTI Consulting and Mitratech on June 15 for a discussion on the ROI of legal tech and how to make the business case for law department tech investments. You can register here.
About the Author: Dain is a tech and data strategy expert based in New York, NY with 12+ years of experience in management consulting roles at PwC and Analysis Group helping clients mature digitally. He currently drives NetDocuments’ enterprise legal strategies and business development within corporate legal departments.
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