A fresh take on the annual Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Global Institute was promised this year by organizers, and they delivered. From the conference opening with a deep dive into the importance of storytelling to an agenda with interactive sessions carrying themes like diversity, opening up to creativity, taking risks, and engaging teams in transformation, this conference felt different from other industry gatherings and carried several clear takeaways on how to have an impact in the legal operations world.
Put people first
Organizational change requires collaboration, and in his opening remarks, Mike Haven, CLOC’s Board President, attributed the strength of CLOC to “you, the people doing groundbreaking work who are willing to help others.” Jen McCarron, Director of Legal Operations and Technology at Netflix reinforced the idea that legal operations is the group of people who create change and do this work together. She reminded the audience of the importance of collaborating with others and remarked that “you are never alone…you can give help to others and others can help you.”
In a session on legal tech adoption, Zander Brandt, Senior Manager of Legal Technology at Lyft, and Kristin Zmrhal VP, Product Strategy at DISCO, also talked about a human-based approach to innovating legal work and the need to select technology for employees that is easy to use and performs well. This will lead to workplace satisfaction — a critical goal in the “war for talent.” They also advised accessing people in your network for technology recommendations, as they likely have experienced similar challenges and conducted research on what technology may help. Zmrhal also stressed the importance of getting people onboard with any transformation initiative, such as bringing your ediscovery in-house. She recommended spending your first 30 days of a new legal operations role listening and learning, and asking more questions than making statements. Brandt also advised that “You don’t learn when you are talking. Understand people’s priorities and spend time building relationships.”
Engaging people was also central to a talk by Andy Brereton, VP, Legal Operations of ServiceNow, on implementing technology. To successfully manage the adoption process, he advised to do three things well: prepare your team (both vendor and your organization) for technology implementation, provide clear communication to set expectations on what is required of people at each implementation phase and, post launch, to continue with multi-channel communications, including group emails, Microsoft Teams or Slack, manager communications, etc. because people receive communications in different ways.
During the conference keynote, Erik Wahl, an internationally recognized graffiti artist and author, described how to harness creativity by stepping away from corporate-speak and taking the risk of being more vulnerable and authentic in your work world. Audience members who took a risk to go on stage with him to share their stories of change were rewarded with a work of art he completed while delivering his keynote.
In terms of risk more specifically within legal practice, several sessions discussed lessons learned from being bold by getting new tools in place, in addition to embracing new areas of legal work for transformation efforts. In a session on efficiencies with legal hold and ediscovery, Sheena Ferrari, Head of Legal Operations at Snap, Inc., emphasized the importance of going beyond the expected to find new ways to do more with less. Many organizations start process changes in contract lifecycle management, as areas like ediscovery might require more change management. However, Zmrhal, who before working at DISCO led Google’s ediscovery program and operations, noted that as ediscovery is one of the biggest line items of any law department budget, making the effort to source alternative solutions that yield superior results and cost savings worth the risk.
Take control of data
The increasing volume of data and rapid innovation in communication, collaboration and contracting was also a theme throughout the conference.
Christine Coats, VP, Legal Operations at Oracle, spoke about the need to gain control of your company’s data: “Both structured and unstructured data continue to grow; this is a challenge that is not going away. On top of this we have privacy regulations to manage. The companies that figure this out and have a strong data management strategy will win.”
In the session on creating efficiencies with ediscovery, Ferrari noted that bringing ediscovery in-house and consolidating down to one tool at Snap, Inc. also helped to mitigate data sprawl, an important step to managing data security.
Many legal operators spoke about how demonstrating your impact was critical to gaining approval for new technology, and for getting buy-in from all stakeholders.
In his discussion on tech implementation, Brereton highlighted the need to reduce time to value. “Implement quickly, get the solution in place and operating. The sooner you can show ROI, the better.”
In the tech adoption session, Zmrhal discussed how she justified tech investment at Google. First she analyzed how much the company was spending on ediscovery technology and service providers globally, and then once a new solution was in place, she reported quarterly on how even as case loads went up, costs went down significantly. Working with finance she was able to pinpoint an 85% savings in ediscovery technology and services by the time she joined DISCO about eight years later.
Brandt also added that adopting superior technology wasn’t all about saving money. He indicated that while it is important to report regularly on cost savings, other benefits needed to be communicated: “When you adopt a better tool that is easier and more efficient to use, it goes beyond ‘doing more with less’. You are allowing paralegals to spend half of their day on higher value work, which feeds into retention.”
At DISCO we look forward to continuing the conversation on legal transformation through many forums throughout the year. Keep an eye on our blog and events page for more opportunities to gain insights from our stellar clients and partners who are pushing legal teams to new heights of performance.