We just got back from attending the first XChange in Minneapolis, the Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) reimagined conference that combined their annual Mid-Year Meeting and Legal Operations events.
We were proud to sponsor the event and had an amazing time chatting with legal ops and in-house professionals from all over the country, learning their biggest challenges and the many ways their departments are tackling them (head on might we add!). Based on these conversations and what we saw during various educational sessions and on the showroom floor, here are a few of the key themes from #ACCX19:
Ops, Ops, and More Ops
With legal operations being such a pivotal piece of a highly efficient legal department, it’s no surprise that the Xchange had a heavy focus on operations. In fact, the schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday morning both kicked off with legal operations interest groups, attended by legal professionals eager to learn about tools and technology, knowledge management, information governance, eDiscovery, and more.
For more on these legal ops topics, get your copy of Legal Operations 101: A Blueprint for Modern Legal Departments. It’s a great foundational resource whether you’re hiring your first legal operations manager or are looking for ways to optimize and modernize your department.
While there’s no denying the focus on operations, those in the legal ops role know that while the function might be a catalyst for driving change within legal departments, it takes a village. There were numerous discussions on how legal ops can build and grow trust with in-house attorneys, as well as the importance of working with business units outside of the legal department such as sales, IT, finance, and engineering.
Whenever you attend a conference, there’s always a risk that the content might be words heard before. This was definitely not the case at the ACC Xchange! Many of the speakers shared valuable experiences and strategies, and most importantly, offered practical processes for taking things from idea to implementation. A few of the main topics discussed around process management included:
- How to create a plan for effective resource allocation
- Ways to leverage legal operations software and data to improve processes
- Using technology to get things done and minimize risk (the do’s and don’ts)
- Tips for working with outside counsel and the best ways to build better relationships
In a session on Aligning Legal Processes for Success, we heard more about how important it is for the legal department to have fully-aligned business processes and standard procedures to drive efficiencies and savings. But when it comes to new processes, or even implementing new technologies, Lesley Garafola, Director of Legal Operations at Barings reminds the audience that, “Change in behavior starts from the top. It helps when the CLO outlines what change needs to be done. Get their buy-in early.”
One of the most (pleasantly) surprising things about the ACC Xchange was the heavy emphasis on leadership training. In addition to a handful of sessions on how to be better business leaders, many of the attendees and speakers were engaged in conversations on personal brand building and how to uncover and address unconscious bias.
We’re excited that this topic is generating more and more interest among corporate counsel, especially as legal operations and the greater in-house department are starting to be viewed as strategic business partners, not just legal advisers. It’s a transition that’s being lead by operationally-minded legal professionals, and hints at new opportunities for those looking to grow and expand their role beyond the traditional scope of legal responsibilities.
A Bright Future for Legal and the Organizations they Serve
With a strong legal operations function, optimized processes, and modern legal ops software, in-house legal is equipped with everything needed to run the department like a business. More than risk managers, we heard throughout the conference that a strategically minded legal function is instrumental in transforming the department into a key asset to the CEO, CFO, and executive team. We had a great time at ACC Xchange and loved that the conference solidified the the fact that there’s no better time to be an in-house professional!
We’d like to thank the Association of Corporate Counsel for putting on such a great show and we’re looking forward to ACC Annual Meeting in Phoenix this October. Can’t wait to see you there!