Brad Blickstein is an expert on the legal industry and legal operations. He is principal at Blickstein Group and publisher of the Annual Law Department Operations Survey, which provides insights into the legal operations business. We talked to Brad about his recent induction as a fellow in the College of Law Practice Management (COLPM).
Can you talk a little about what the Blickstein Group does and how you came to be a fellow in the College of Law Practice Management?
Blickstein Group is a research and advisory firm, which consults with a number of firms and legal service providers. Since 2008, we have also published the Annual Law Department Operations (LDO) survey, which has really become the seminal research piece on the legal operations field as it has developed and grown. We also have a new Legal AI Efficacy Report, which investigates the specific problems AI-powered legal tools are designed to solve and how effective they actually are in solving them.
My nomination to the COLPM emerged out of that work, plus I’m a co-founder of the Corporate Legal Times, a publication that has evolved to become Inside Counsel, now owned by ALM Media. It seems my work over the last 30 years has been reasonably innovative and meaningful to those working in the practice of law.
What excites you about being included in this year’s group of new fellows?
The COLPM has been around for about 20 years, and the membership is made up of people who are thought leaders and innovators, effecting change and improvement in the legal industry. I’m thrilled to be recognized alongside them.
I’m especially pleased to be inducted alongside some of this year’s new members. The organization no longer focuses mostly on law firms and now also includes more fellows from the in-house and legal ops side; several of this year’s inductees represent that added focus, and I’ve worked with many of them. For example, David Cambria is my partner in the LDO survey; Reese Arrowsmith and Vincent Cordo are on the LDO survey advisory board; Farrah Pepper is on the advisory board for the Legal AI Efficacy Report; Stephanie Corey is a well-known early advocate for the value of legal ops; Jason Barnwell is doing some amazing things at Microsoft; and Bob Taylor has Liberty Mutual on the bleeding edge. It’s exciting to become a member at the same time as these people.
The COLPM recognizes innovation and can see where the industry is heading. Operations and in-house counsel are now increasingly represented, just as many early law firm marketers became members when that function began to gain prominence.
Does being a fellow present you with new collaboration opportunities?
Yes, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of those opportunities. One thing that’s very impressive about the COLPM is the collegiality – many members, who I didn’t even know, have reached out to congratulate me, and many sought me out at the induction ceremony. I already knew a lot of members, and several of them were eager to introduce me to others I hadn’t met yet. It’s a very collaborative atmosphere. I’m not sure yet where it will lead but, but I’ve met a lot of very smart people since I joined – that’s a good sign!
Are there any College of Law Practice Management programs that you plan to participate in?
There are publications I’m interested in, but the main thing I’m looking forward to is the annual combined induction and Futures conference. This is a two-day event, featuring a black-tie induction ceremony, with enormous networking and educational value. Every year, the event brings people together and is really powerful, even after the official events end in the evening. That’s when you often end up having the cool, breakthrough ideas and meeting people who can change how you do business.
For example, law firm business development is something I haven’t had a great deal of experience with over the years. But as a member of the COLPM, I’m now planting new roots with folks who are much more familiar with the function and learning more about their interesting work.
More generally, what do you think are the most promising recent developments in the area of legal operations? Which recent trends are most likely to have the greatest positive impact on in-house legal organizations?
When I started the LDO survey 12 years ago, we found 34 people who could credibly say that they worked in in-house ops. The rise since then has been huge. Even though it may still be somewhat ill-defined, the rise in the legal ops role is really valuable.
Also, more and more we are heading toward being a data-based industry with respect to pricing and outside counsel, so companies can better understand which firms to use. It started in-house with ops professionals, and now we’re seeing both pricing and legal ops staff at firms as well. On the outside counsel side, it makes sense to have someone on staff for the clients’ legal ops folks to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of.
Is there anything else about being in the COLPM that you wanted to mention?
Yes – how much I respect the other fellows in the organization. I’ve never worked for a firm or in a law department myself, and I am very grateful to be included. It’s a self-perpetuating organization in which existing fellows nominated me, and then the board accepted me. That is truly an honor.