CLOC 2019: Innovation and Emerging Trends

This month I attended the CLOC Institute in Las Vegas. As a former legal practitioner and passionate technologist, it was inspiring to see first-hand how much technology has become an integral part of law firm and corporate legal department operations in the past few years.

The reality is that more lawyers are practicing data-driven law, using advances in technology – artificial intelligence and analytics for example – to glean key insights that are changing the business and practice of law. With these advances comes more complexity as legal departments and law firms must now work with dedicated operations teams whose role is to determine what technology investments make sense and how to implement those investments most effectively. 

  • Legal is a vital business partner. In the corporate space, legal is no longer a separate island but rather an integral part of the executive management team. Companies now recognize that the legal implications in terms of risk and compliance are far-reaching in a data-centric environment, and it is vital for the legal department to have a voice at the table where decisions are made. There is also a growing recognition of the role the legal department can play in identifying new business opportunities with its insights on client needs and what opportunities make sense to pursue from an ROI perspective.

  • Technology is not an option. Legal operations and process management have grown in importance, particularly as the rate of technology innovation in the legal space continues to grow, and the associated compliance requirements evolve. Specifically, the ability to leverage technology to drive greater efficiencies, streamline workflows and ensure greater financial accountability is revolutionizing how law firms and legal departments operate. Contract management technology, for example, can quickly convert files into machine readable form and allow lawyers to easily locate clauses, saving time while collaboration tools enable lawyers to work on document edits in real time with colleagues.

  • Leveraging Big Data for business insights continues to evolve. Another key trend to emerge was the importance of leveraging the data now available via technology to guide decision-making. With greater process management and technology investment, law firms and legal departments now have greater insight into how budget is spent. For example, how much do certain types of cases cost; where is there repetition in processes that could be streamlined to save time and money; are the right resources being allocated to the right projects?

One keynote speaker put it well when he said law firms and legal departments need to apply an almost childlike approach to how they operate and ask: “why we are doing this, and can we do it differently?” By taking a fresh perspective on old problems, the legal world can avoid becoming entrenched in the status quo and achieve greater levels of success.

Many of the thought leaders and technologists I heard from at the 2019 CLOC Institute were inspiring. The insights they shared on both the current and future states of legal practice made it clear that the business of law is transforming thanks to a thoughtful approach to technology, process and innovation—a transformation I believe is for the better.