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CLOC Institute in Las Vegas Illuminated Abundant Opportunities for Legal IT Professionals

Christy BurkeThe 2018 CLOC U.S. Institute conference has quickly become one of the hottest tickets in the legal industry, having doubled its attendance each year since its 2016 debut in San Francisco.  Consistently emphasizing messages of collaboration, integration and efficiency, the event brought together a diverse group of professionals from 700+ organizations and 37 countries at the Bellagio in Las Vegas earlier this week from April 22-25.

Both as a conference and as an organization, CLOC aims to advance the efficient delivery of legal services to businesses and government agencies.  To this end, the CLOC conference provided dozens of intriguing sessions, product demonstrations and networking opportunities to create a unique experience brimming with innovation, partnership, rigor and optimism.  

Top law firms were exhibiting side-by-side with legal technology vendors.  Several large, prestigious law firms like Reed Smith, Baker McKenzie and DLA Piper sponsored the event, seeing it as an opportunity to connect with current customers, find new ones, and be part of the corporate legal ops conversation. 

David C. Pulice, Director of Practice Innovation in the Knowledge Management department at Reed Smith, is a representative example of how the role of legal IT professionals is rapidly evolving.  Pulice is in Knowledge Management which is an IT role.  He works closely with the IT development team at his firm on a daily basis to devise solutions for the firm’s corporate legal clients.  

According to Pulice, “Before we select or apply technology solutions, we first look at the ‘use case’ and conduct analysis to determine what is most useful.  What will solve the problem?  My team is focused on efficiency, and the greatest way to build efficiencies is to talk directly to our corporate clients, many of which are here at CLOC.  Making their lives easier makes our lives easier.  Reed Smith fully subscribes to being more efficient and passing the savings on to the client while still maintaining quality.” 

CLOC celebrates creativity, encouraging the process of seeking accountability and setting guidelines without crushing new ideas.  Corporate legal ops is still a relatively new field, but obviously it’s a burgeoning and exciting hotbed of activity with a very bright future.  The CLOC mission brings a new essential importance to the work of legal IT professionals because law firms must leverage technology sufficiently to attract – and keep – high-octane corporate clients.  Law firms attending CLOC have gained great respect for the legal IT function since technology innovation is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a requirement.

Justin Hectus, CIO/CISO of Keesal Young & Logan, said it was valuable for him to attend CLOC 2018 as a law firm IT professional.  He explained, “Whether we’re talking about legal services or professions in general, the future is uncertain.  No one person or firm has it all sorted out, so this is a great time for experimentation and collaboration with strategic partners and clients.  At this moment, there is a willingness to do just that across the ecosystem.”

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According to Hectus, “There are no echo chambers here at CLOC.  Every session and dinner conversation connects the client, vendor and law firm perspectives in a way that promotes a wider perspective and a clearer path for the future.  As a technology professional and a business professional, connecting those dots in an unvarnished and direct fashion helps to clarify our views on the industry and optimizing client service.”

Hectus spoke on a panel called Empowering the Evolution of Legal Ops:  How Workflow Automation Enables Process Improvement & Releases Value in Existing Technologies.  The session’s rather long title was necessary, because the content covered was fairly expansive.  The speakers brought a flowchart to life showing a collaborative ecosystem of integrated technologies that provided end-to-end contract lifecycle management. 

During this session, ThinkSmart LLC, recently acquired by Mitratech, presented an integrated solution that pulled together a dizzying array of data sources and applications, all designed to provide a “pleasant, centralized, seamless” system for a corporate client.  Workflows and questionnaires were easy to create on a visual canvas.  

In an elegant dance, data that began in Salesforce was passed to ThinkSmart’s TAP platform, following on with creation of a matter in Mitratech’s TeamConnect application, demonstrating the integrated power of the TAP-TeamConnect platform. At the same time, documents were sent via DocuSign for execution of the contract, and then on to Box for storage.  ThinkSmart’s CEO Paul Hirner said that TAP’s integrations “don’t take long, are unlimited, and usually very easy to configure via a drag and drop interface.”   

Hectus said that his firm is using ThinkSmart TAP as part of an “integration sampler platter” which also includes Box, NetDocuments DMS, Privva vendor risk management, Okta single sign-on and Microsoft SQL Server. The ThinkSmart/Keesal Young & Logan collaboration benefits Keesal’s lawyers and staff by moving work through the firm, but it also provides efficiency and streamlining of  legal work for the firm’s corporate clients.

Another persistent message of the CLOC conference was a mandate for collaboration between corporate law departments and their outside counsel firms.  The session Collaboration:  How Legal Departments and Law Firms Can Work Together to Enhance Value featured two speakers:  Sheila Kennedy, Senior Director, Legal Operations at Medtronic and Paul Nicandri, Chief Service Delivery Officer at DLA Piper.  These two organizations have come to work together so closely, and Medtronic has gone to great lengths to assist DLA Piper and its other law firms to help them provide optimal services. 

Kennedy outlined the Medtronic Preferred Provider Program (MP3) which establishes long-term partnerships with a panel of law firms including DLA Piper.  MP3 programs include Collaboration Summits, and an Associate Council to develop key associates at DLA Piper and other select MP3 firms who will work on Medtronic matters.  Each MP3 firm has a contact who handles all operational issues related to the firm’s collaboration.

Nicandri noted that Medtronic’s Summits are invaluable because they allow his team to hear from the client directly on pain points.  He said these events have helped DLA Piper provide better, more informed proposals and to manage budgets more effectively.

DLA Piper has several initiatives of its own which benefit Medtronic and its other clients, having recently hired a Chief Transformation Officer from Microsoft who brought a wealth of knowledge in artificial intelligence and data analytics. Also, the firm is working on other projects including developing an expert witness database and tools to extract meaningful information from legal briefs.

Hearing Kennedy and Nicandri speak, it was clear that their mutual respect and consideration of each other, as well as their efforts to accommodate the other, was truly a model for any inside/outside counsel relationship.  It was more a partnership of equals than a typical vendor/client relationship seemed to resonate well with CLOC’s inclusive, non-hierarchical approach.

The CLOC Institute conference was fresh, relevant and accessible.  The atmosphere was universally positive, not jaded or cynical - a clear indication that we all had arrived to have a discussion whose time had definitely come. Needed by law firms and their corporate clients alike, legal IT professionals are an important part of the ongoing CLOC discussion, which presents many challenges for them, but a host of possibilities, too.  

Christy Burke is President and Founder of Burke & Company, a New York City-based PR and marketing consulting firm specializing in legal/tech.  She is a prolific writer, having published columns in Legal IT Today, Legal IT Professionals and many other legal industry publications, journals and blogs.  For more information, visit burke-company.com or follow Christy on Twitter @ChristyBurkePR.
 

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