Is 2018 the Year that Law Firms Close the Gap on Legal Operations?

by JD Supra Perspectives

The practice of law is changing – of this there is no doubt. But if the energy and forward movement keeps up at the current pace, it seems that 2018 may be the tipping point for law firms to start to become more than just aware of legal operations. 

Five years ago a group of visionary in-house counsels from large corporations starting meeting and sharing information informally with the goal of creating more effective and productive relationships with their outside law firms. 

In 2016, these founding members, Mary O’Carroll from Google, Connie Brenton from Net App, Jeff Franke from Yahoo, Christine Coats from Oracle, Lisa Konie from Adobe, Steve Harmon from Cisco, and Brian Hupp from Facebook formed the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, CLOC, and planned their first CLOC Institute that very year.

Over 500 legal ops professionals and legal services providers attended this first conference. The movement took off. At the 2017 conference in 2017 there were over 1,000 attendees. The 2018 conference organizers predict over 2,500 attendees will flock to this year’s conference from April 22 – 25 in Las Vegas.  

According to the institute’s conference proceedings: “The CLOC Institute is the largest gathering of corporate legal professionals in the world focused on optimizing the delivery of legal services to businesses. The energized, inclusive and open community we’ve created welcomes industry veterans and newcomers, allowing attendees to create a breadth and depth of connections not available anywhere else. With more than 75 curated educational sessions, provided by industry leaders, the CLOC Institute offers unrivaled opportunities to learn, share, and connect.” 

And according to an article by Jennifer Brown published in Canadian Lawyer, it is not yet at the tipping point

In the article, Brown reported that Mary O’Carroll, while speaking on a panel during LegalWeek in New York in January, discussed the fact that her role is an emerging one. 

“Legal operations used to be one that existed only in large departments focused on efficiencies and effectiveness. It’s now often the first hire after the general counsel in a new legal department. ‘The value and impact of this role is being recognized and the voice of the client has really started to come together and demanding we change the legal industry,’ Ms. O’Carroll said. 

“Now, when the legal department at Google has a piece of work that needs to go external, a series of questions are asked: Does it need to go to a law firm? Can it go to an alternative services provider? Can it be done in-house? Can it be automated? Can technology satisfy the problem?”

The upcoming CLOC Institute is not only for legal department members, both in-house counsels and legal operations professionals, but also law firm attorneys, other legal service providers and consultants that assist law firms and/or legal departments to create and implement successful legal ops programs. Legal ops is about creating better efficiencies, predictability in fees, and increased transparency between outside law firms and legal departments. With an open and sharing mentality enveloping the conference, the networking opportunities will be front and center.

The educational offerings are deep and wide for law firms. They include an inside look for those starting up a legal ops function – for either a legal department or a law firm wishing to grow their practice through client focused legal operation preferences. A few additional topics in the myriad of offerings include knowledge management, connecting legal ops technologies for better ROI, strategies to more effectively partner with outside counsel, and additional concepts for pricing, profitability and legal project management.

Conference organizers are hoping more law firms will attend sending their client relationship partners, those attorneys responsible for firm management, and IT and marketing professionals who can coordinate the process, the training and implementation. There is no better conference on this topic anywhere.

Directors of Legal Operations are the folks who hire and fire outside law firms. And more and more corporate legal departments are making a deeper commitment to expand their company’s legal operations’ programs. 

This is the right time and this conference is the right place for law firms wishing to stay relevant and grow their firms. Learn how to transform your firm’s culture in order to adapt to this major shift in how law firms will deliver services in the future – and that future is now.


[Merry Neitlich is managing partner of EM Consultants located in Irvine, CA. She can be reached at or 949-260- 0936.]

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