CLOC Global Institute 2023 reflections: 5 legal ops trends coming in hot

David Chai | May 24, 2023 | Articles

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the 2023 CLOC Global Institute (CGI) conference at the exquisite Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Representing Onit as a Diamond sponsor, I was able to dive into the current state of the market, gain insights into the future of the industry, and learn about the pressing concerns on the minds of legal operations professionals.

As a product marketer in the legal tech space for over 5 years, I’ve seen many trends rise in importance for legal leaders and their teams. From AFAs to DE&I, and now AI, legal ops has always helped to usher in new technologies and modernize corporate legal departments. As I participated in various sessions at this conference and chatted with legal operators about their experiences, I was reminded of legal operation’s impact as one major conference theme stood out: the ever-increasing importance of technology in the realm of legal operations.

Allow me to share with you some of the captivating new trends centered around this theme that I learned about during my time at CGI 2023.

1. The rise of generative AI (dun, dun, DUN!)

Generative AI was definitely the biggest mindshare of the conference. With the recent press attention on generative AI, namely OpenAI’s ChatGPT, everybody (legal departments included) are trying to better understand what it means for them.

Generative AI has the potential to transform legal departments, freeing up valuable time, improving efficiency, and enhancing decision-making. From auto-generating legal service requests to giving voice back to outside counsel invoices and streamlining contract reviews, generative AI presents numerous opportunities for legal professionals to optimize their workflows.

However, not everything is sunshine and butterflies – there’s a huge need for legal to understand and demystify AI technology in order to harness its potential to drive positive change. Legal teams still need to figure out how best to navigate the challenges associated with AI’s rapid evolution such as data privacy, security, and regulatory compliance. With so many large unknowns, many legal teams are in a “wait and see” mindset when it comes to generative AI.

2. Build a business case before buying legal tech

A crucial topic at CGI 2023 centered around building a strong business case for implementing new legal tech solutions. Considering the current economic environment and its impact on cost/benefit in the minds of executives, it’s easy to see why this was a popular topic. By building a business case before you purchase legal technology, you’re forced to uncover and understand critical information before ever spending a dollar. It also positions you as a rockstar with great business acumen! Some specific areas you might want to focus on when building a business case are:

  • What specific problem(s) are you trying to solve?
  • What are your objectives for this new legal technology?
  • What benefits will this legal technology bring?
  • What are the opportunity costs of choosing this solution?
  • What are the risks and how do you plan to mitigate them?
  • How does this technology purchase align with the overall business strategy?
  • What is the expected ROI, plus other financial factors like payback period, net present value (NPV), and internal rate of return?

3. User adoption goes beyond UI and UX

User adoption is an important aspect of successful technology implementation. Oftentimes, user adoption is only thought of in the context of a software application’s user interface or experience. While both are extremely important, there are other factors that legal operations can readily influence that greatly impact user adoption, such as internal buy-in and readiness.

To ensure a smooth transition, it is essential to identify key stakeholders and understand their needs and goals. By aligning with stakeholders and prioritizing their requirements, legal teams can gain buy-in from the outset. Additionally, it’s crucial to focus on transforming internal processes to facilitate technology usage and demonstrate the value of the legal technology to the entire team, both inside and outside the legal department. By involving evangelists and building trust, legal ops can create a supportive environment for legal technology adoption and foster greater adoption.

4. Maximizing value in outside counsel relationships

Another key trend delved into maximizing the value derived from outside counsel relationships. Building strong relationships between law firms and in-house legal departments can significantly impact the success of legal operations (as well as the department’s bottomline). By investing time and effort in developing deep business-focused connections, legal professionals can create mutually beneficial partnerships. Some of the things that legal ops can focus on with their law firms are:

  • Using data to guide strategic relationship-building conversations
  • Effective two-way communication
  • Setting the expectation of the level and type of business advice required from outside counsel

Additionally, timely and persistent change management with your law firms has a direct impact on their success, innovation, and ability to leverage creativity to drive positive outcomes.

5. A shift to predictive spend management

With constricted resources, legal departments are increasingly required to adopt a predictive approach to spend management. By leveraging automation, rate benchmarking, strategic use of RFPs, and realistic budgeting, legal teams can unlock new levels of sophistication. The CGI emphasized the importance of capturing data, analyzing benchmarking information, and considering factors beyond costs to drive outcomes and support spend management goals. By understanding historical spend and analyzing trends, legal departments can make informed decisions about resource allocation, alternative fee arrangements, and how best to optimize legal service delivery. Predictive spend management enables legal professionals to proactively manage budgets, mitigate risks, and demonstrate value to stakeholders.

Embracing innovation: Paving the way for tomorrow’s legal departments

The 2023 CLOC Global Institute provided valuable insights into the future of legal operations. The conference highlighted the significance of technology, such as Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) and generative AI, in transforming legal departments and improving efficiency. It also emphasized the importance of driving user adoption from an operational perspective, gaining stakeholder buy-in, maximizing value in outside counsel relationships, and adopting a predictive approach to spend management. With these insights and best practices, legal professionals can drive positive change, enhance productivity, and achieve their strategic goals!

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