The 2019 CLOC London Institute was an excellent opportunity to take the pulse of the legal operations industry in Europe. The conference brought together corporate legal operations professionals and vendors, offering the chance for informal, one-on-one conversations, as well as presentations where we heard from thought leaders about current challenges and strategies for success. Over the course of the two-day event, a few key themes emerged:
Legal operations professionals are finding new ways to add value to their organizations
Increasingly, legal departments are expected to deliver business value beyond good legal advice. More than ever, legal leaders are helping to develop and work toward strategic business objectives and maintain competitive advantage. The legal operations function can help by keeping legal spend in check, helping colleagues partner with the right outside counsel, and demonstrating the value the legal department contributes.
Evolution in both technology and best practices have made it easier for legal operations to participate in meeting these goals. Enterprise Legal Management solutions are now common in larger legal departments, where they are used to automate previously manual processes, support internal and outside counsel collaboration, and capture valuable legal spend data so that it can aid in decision-making. The improved communication and workflows that these solutions enable are helping legal departments deliver the high level of performance that company leaders now expect.
Data is an essential driver in decision-making for legal departments
In order to meet those high-performance expectations, the legal function needs data on which to base decisions for the most advantageous outcomes. Just as their colleagues in other corporate departments refer to historical information and results when making, for example, accounting or logistics decisions, legal leaders also need hard data to aid with both large and small decisions.
For example, data, presented in the form of relevant analytics, aids with tasks like bill review, and counsel assignment on matters. It can reveal issues with billing practices and help ensure that matters are directed to counsel with a successful history of meeting goals on similar cases. Metrics also provide a basis for less quotidian circumstances, such as negotiations with outside counsel and budget planning. In addition to providing input in legal department decisions, it is also essential in reporting out performance to the larger organization.
Legal departments that aren’t currently capturing matter and spend data should start as soon as possible. The key is to start with simple information that has a clear purpose, such as data about typical rates, overall spend, and comparative law firm performance. You don’t need to collect all the data in the world on day one. As a start, focus on the information that is accessible to you and that will help you change in-house or outside counsel behavior for the better.
Technology can help, but choose wisely
There are technological solutions that can help improve legal operations, collect the right data, and then leverage it in the most useful way. Many vendors were on site at the event to let you know how they can support your efforts. Before deciding who to partner with, it’s important to define your goals so that you can evaluate the options and determine who can best help you reach the specific targets you have in mind.
Artificial intelligence, for example, is a hot topic that many vendors are focused on. AI can be incredibly valuable, but it’s only as beneficial as the vendor offering it. My advice is to avoid shopping for an AI solution and instead look for a vendor that can help you meet your goals. If they propose using AI to do that, the right partner will be able to demonstrate the results they’ve had with other clients and set realistic expectations about your likely outcomes.
The CLOC attendees I spoke with were excited to learn about new technology and trends in legal operations. They told me that they learned a lot from the sessions and appreciated the opportunity to hear from others in their field, as well as potential partners who may be able to help them achieve their goals. To read more about the ways legal operations professionals are contributing to improved performance, download our whitepaper The Call for Innovation in the Legal Department.