60 days out: A senior product manager’s takeaways from CLOC 2022
Last year, we saw Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) discussions take over the legal ops community. That hasn’t changed this year. In fact, the discussion has expanded. The most recent survey from the Association for Corporate Counsel (ACC) shows that an increasing number of GCs and legal departments are now focused on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues. Many departments also have further reported that their companies have placed ESG responsibilities within their departments. Legal is at the forefront of scouting out what these topics mean for future company initiatives.
Before, legal tech software used to be all about addressing specific day-to-day problems that legal departments faced. Recently, we’ve seen the scope of what legal departments take on vastly expand. At the 2022 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium Global Institute (CLOCGI), it became evident that companies are starting to pay attention to strategic topics like ESG, DE&I, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). That means legal tech has to step up and deliver features that encompass what taking on that work means.
Changing corporate interests = changing product management considerations
There’s a shift in thinking defensively according to Cristina Hernandez in the 2022 CLOCGI’s Super Session: Fulfilling the Promise – How Legal Ops & Law Departments can Enhance ESG/CSR & DE&I Programs. Legal teams are beginning to weave inclusion into company culture instead of treating it like a chain of one-off events. Businesses are now being challenged to make “affirmative and proactive statements” on societal issues.
As product managers all know, we listen to the collective voice of the customer. But there are many stakeholders involved in product management, both internally and externally. We often think about the long-term sustainability of the product itself and having features and functionality enabled that make the product more extensible and easier to accommodate future growth. With the heightened accountabilities to which investors are now holding corporations, there is a larger emphasis on what’s going to become important to clients in the future and not just what’s top of mind for them in today’s world.
What does this mean for legal tech providers?
For product managers, this shift in approach means that vendors have to provide a product or service that addresses both the current and future needs of their corporate customers. That means we are no longer just considering the historical corporate purposes of what is best for the stakeholders but also addressing the concerns of the stakeholders.
Encompassing broader long-term needs
We are definitely seeing more emphasis on the broader long-term needs than ever before. That means taking into consideration how to best accommodate the tracking of such initiatives as ESG and CSR continue to gain footholds.
It’s important to make features and functionality flexible and extensible enough for future growth and expansion. Ensuring that the product can handle and accommodate newer and evolving initiatives and having the professional services available to complement the set-up and maintenance of such features and functionality is now more crucial than ever.
The effect on the relationship between different users of the product
Corporate legal departments work with a variety of vendors. Legal tech product managers have to also consider how the functionalities of their products will affect the vendors, like outside counsel or Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs), with whom the legal departments who use their products will work.
Since many corporations are developing DE&I programs and strongly requesting their vendors, especially their outside law firms, adhere to such programs, features and functionality that accommodate this by making it flexible enough for wide-spread adoption and usage are more important to consider than ever before. Transparency and visibility along with backup documentation are essential to showcase that the vendors with whom corporate legal teams work with are truly in compliance.
Vendors of law departments, especially outside counsel, will be asked to provide additional data to showcase they will be adhering to wider initiatives being implemented within the company and across its vendors. Audrey Rubin, Senior Adviser at BarkerGilmore, says that legal operations have the ability to make a difference on this front. Firms who are not readily showing their adherence to such programs could be evaluated in a different light during corporate legal’s annual review process.
This doesn’t mean legal tech providers are off the hook either! DE&I, ESG, and CSR are not just a corporate legal concern; they are an everyone concern. Everyone—outside counsel, legal tech providers, and so on— with whom corporate legal works must begin to ensure that they are implementing such programs within their own walls and not just checking boxes because their clients are asking them to abide by such initiatives.
Demand for solutions to capture ESG-related information will continue to rise
As corporations make commitments, legal operations have the capacity to look forward to determine what tools are required in order for their organization to actually meet their commitments. Legal tech providers must rise up to meet that demand. That means product managers will have to continue to think of functionalities that will help track the long-term initiatives legal departments are now undertaking, while continuing to deliver products that allow ease of use and have functionalities that address specific pain points. DE&I, CSR, and ESG work is here to stay. What matters is how we build the supporting framework to make that work endure.