Important Takeaways about legal operations from the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) 2019 annual conference, held May 14-16, 2019, in Las Vegas.
At its most formal level, legal operations is a dedicated group of professionals residing within many in-house legal departments consisting of one or more professionals dedicated to helping the in-house legal department operate and deliver legal services more efficiently and effectively. A few leading law firms and accounting firms also have legal operations positions or departments operating within their firms.
On the most informal level, legal operations (whether or not legal ops is a formal department or position) is simply what a lawyer, legal department, law firm and staff does or can do to provide quality legal services and results to clients more efficiently (less time-consuming) and cost-effectively (predictably cheaper) than before, meaning individual lawyers must continually work to make their services more efficient and cost-effective. Yet many lawyers are still resisting this market-driven necessity.
A mistake many outside lawyers and law firms are still making is to minimize or dismiss the importance of the legal operations function and role. It’s a mistake because the fundamental mission of legal operations is to create efficiencies in the delivery of legal services, which is of concern to every law firm client, and by definition should be of equal or greater concern to every lawyer and law firm.
Why Lawyers Should Embrace Legal Operations
- All law firm clients (whether individuals or corporations/entities) want the exact same thing delivered to them by their lawyers and law firms: quality, responsive and predictably cost-effective legal services that obtain the desired result (or as close to it as is possible).
- Almost every law firm client has a “budget” in mind, but the problem is when lawyers say the word budget they think and mean “estimate,” with the vast majority of clients defining budget as the maximum amount the lawyer/firm will charge. Many lawyers also do not make it clear to the client (in writing) that the required retainer is not the total amount the lawyer/firm will charge. So, right from the start of many lawyer-client relationships, matters and cases, there is an important disconnect in expectations.
- The billable hour business model used by almost all law firms and lawyers is disconnected from clients’ objectives (stated above) and often results in clients being overbilled and less than fully satisfied with their lawyers/law firms.
- The legal industry is rapidly moving toward (and in many instances already has) predictive pricing for common matters and cases. Many sophisticated clients already know the average and median costs of many of the common and repetitious matters and cases as well as their more complex matters and cases. Many lawyers and law firms still do not capture that information, which often makes them noncompetitive in bidding situations.
- Make no mistake: You are not the only outside lawyer they contacted. In fact, most people and corporations needing/looking for outside counsel obtain at least two or three quotes before making their final hiring decision.
- Providing quality, experienced legal services is no longer a differentiator for law firms. It is an expected price of admission or the table stakes. Any lawyers and firms that do not deliver quality, experienced legal services stop getting assigned new work (they are rarely formally “fired”).
- Recent advancements in technology have now made artificial intelligence and machine learning almost a cost of admission for law firms and lawyers to have in place to not only create efficiencies, but also to even be competitive enough to win requests for proposal (RFPs) and new work.
The number of vendors at CLOC19 alone (over 115) offering proven systems and solutions that deliver significant time savings for lawyers and firms was impressive; there were way too many to summarize here. I encourage readers to visit the #CLOC2019Vegas website to see the myriad sponsors and their offerings.
CLOC was founded in 2010 as a book club, and in the succeeding nine years, has grown to thousands of members worldwide. CLOC’s annual conference was held in Las Vegas, May 14-16, 2019 (CLOC19), and was attended by over 2,500 legal operations professionals, general and in-house counsel, technologists, procurement professionals, client service professionals (like me), lawyers, and other related professionals. Over 115 vendors sponsored and exhibited at CLOC19 and offer myriad possible solutions to support legal operations.