Mike Haven, president of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), said today’s economic environment is a “sweet spot” for legal ops teams because many in-house departments are looking for ways to deliver high-quality legal services with fewer resources.
As a result, legal operators are being called upon to put into practice their experience helping legal teams achieve economies of scale through process improvements and technology adoption.
Given these circumstances, Haven said a top priority for CLOC in 2023 is empowering its 5,000-plus members to best utilize their skills to effectively support their employers facing economic challenges.
“CLOC is going to be well positioned to help our members, their organizations and the industry get through these times by sharing best practices, common experiences, and things that the more experienced cohort within our membership have done in the past to help their organizations through what we believe is coming,” said Haven, head of legal operations at Intel.
CLOC’s other priorities for next year include elevating the strategic component of legal operations, helping advance diversity in the profession and finding a new executive director.
Haven said one way legal operators can help their departments during tight budgetary times is through implementing process automation.
These efforts could include automating intake processes to ensure legal departments have smoother interactions with their clients and get them to the right resources more swiftly.
The contract management space is another area Haven said is ripe for automation and technology adoption.
Overall, he said automation is best used for low-risk, low-complexity tasks a legal professional would otherwise have to spend time completing.
“We're not trying to replace that human with machines, but we're trying to redirect that human to things that require human judgment and let the machines do the things that machines can do,” Haven said. “This will help us scale.”
Another top priority for CLOC is encouraging legal ops professionals to become more comfortable playing strategic roles in their organizations.
Haven said a strategic mentality is particularly important for legal ops leaders to possess in the current economic climate.
For example, he said legal ops professionals are well-positioned to help their departments think through how to manage possibly having less money to spend on outside counsel and other external vendors. Ops leaders can also provide guidance about how to re-allocate internal personnel to ensure the legal department is able to tackle the wide array of issues on its plate.
Haven acknowledged that it can be difficult to make recommendations that may ruffle some feathers, especially for legal ops professionals who are new in their roles. But he said assertiveness is essential for legal ops leaders who hope to facilitate change.
“This is a job for people who are bold and willing to take smart risks for the benefit of their organizations,” Haven said.
Another priority for CLOC in the new year, Haven said, is advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal industry.
As part of its efforts in that regard, CLOC created a DE&I Committee that is working to develop concrete action steps the organization can take.
“I hope that we can use our collective power at CLOC to both ensure that diverse professionals stay in the profession and are promoted through the ranks to the highest levels of the profession,” Haven said.
Additionally, he hopes CLOC can help increase the pipeline of diverse professionals coming into the legal ops profession and broader legal industry.
CLOC will be carrying out its high-priority initiatives in 2023 under new executive leadership.
Betsi Roach, who served as CLOC’s first executive director since May 2020, recently announced she was stepping down to pursue a new endeavor.
Haven praised Roach for her work leading the organization through the pandemic and ensuring it emerged stronger.
He said CLOC’s board is leading the search for a new ED who the panel hopes will help the association continue on its positive trajectory.
“We're looking forward to having our next executive director be another dynamic, strategic industry leader who knows our community, knows legal operations and can harness the power of our world-class staff,” Haven said.
There is no set timetable for when the board hopes to complete the search, he said.
Lisa Konie, a founding member of CLOC and longtime member of the board of directors, will assume the role of interim executive director until Roach’s successor is announced. Konie previously held legal ops leadership roles at Adobe.
“She's more than capable and knows our organization inside and out,” Haven said.