CLOC Endorses SALI Standards In Important Step

Influential inhouse and legal ops group, CLOC, has decided to publicly back the SALI Alliance project, which is developing legal matter standards across the industry.

CLOC, or the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, has grown rapidly to become one of the leading voices and forums representing clients in the legal market, both in the US and in other major markets such as the UK. So, its support is highly noteworthy.

It matters especially that CLOC is on the buy-side of the legal market equation, at least in terms of its core members. This is because what the SALI Alliance, (or the Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry Alliance), is trying to do, which is to map out what lawyers do, and to create a shared taxonomy to describe it, could be a major help for buyers of legal services.

For example, if a company wanted to understand what it was spending on legal services it would need to do more than just look at all of its bills, it would need a way of clearly classifying all the work done for it. The challenge there is that many law firms classify their work output in different ways, so building an objective map of what’s happening is hard to do. I.e. you may have lots of bills, but those bills are not all worded the same way.

Moreover, even if company A managed to map its legal spending alone, it would not necessarily be able to share its insights with company B – if it wished to for market improvement purposes – because they’d likely be working off a different set of terms and classifications to describe the work that had been performed. I.e. it’s the old apples and oranges conundrum. And of course, there is only one solution to this: work with the same shared classifications.

But, that is easier said than done, as you need multiple parties to start using these standards – and to agree on them in the first place. But, where there is a will, there is a way. And it looks like the will to do this is growing.

Now, this is where legal tech comes in.

Without any objective way to classify and compare outputs then it’s harder to see the value of legal tech – which primarily is about greater efficiency in legal production. Naturally, this is most relevant to aspects of work that are not so complex that they are in effect ‘one-offs’, e.g. M&A negotiations are hard to classify and vary a lot from matter to matter, but core elements of a due diligence exercise probably are open to standard description.

Also, for more BAU work; or work that has a very high frequency with constantly repeating and relatively simple, albeit time-consuming processes; or work where it’s seen by the buyers as commoditised – or should be commoditised – then shared matter taxonomies could be a very useful driver for the use of technology.

I.e. if buyers can see more clearly what they are buying; can compare like with like across the market and inside their own business, the more standard outputs can then be purchased in a ‘real market’ – (see the AL piece on ‘Is The Legal Market Really A Market?‘)

When market forces come fully into play then tech’s value increases rapidly for the producers of legal work.

Here’s what CLOC said in a statement: ‘In our quest to facilitate collaboration among legal operations professionals and other industry players, CLOC is pleased to announce our endorsement of the Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry (SALI) Alliance.

A common language to describe legal work benefits all parties in the ecosystem by enabling faster, better data analysis to increased transparency and simplified data integration.’

They added that: ‘We will share updates and information from the SALI Alliance including new releases of the standard, new adopters, case studies, calls for input, and more.’

And here’s some more info on the SALI Alliance:

Why have a Standard?

‘Data is critical to address the many challenges associated with efficient legal service delivery. Today, analytics are available to support managing costs and improving matter predictability. But producing analytics depends on standardised data. And data is rife with disparate, dispersed data, inconsistent standards, information gaps, varying definitions, and other problems. For anyone charged with harmonising data within or across organisations, it is an arduous and painful process.’ 

What is SALI doing?

‘The SALI Alliance is a nonprofit legal standards body aspiring to solve the data standardisation problem. It was formed in 2017 by an inclusive cross-industry group representing legal operations, in-house counsel, law firm professionals, technology companies, and other service providers.

In February 2020, SALI published the first Legal Matter Specification Standard (LMSS), which includes more than 3,000 standardised fields, codes, and tags that identify items such as areas of law (e.g., intellectual property), legal services (e.g., litigation), client industries (e.g., computing & high tech), and actor roles (e.g., defendant).

[They] continue to work with many companies and organisations throughout the legal ecosystem, finding aligned interests even among competitors. The projects bring industry participants together, from law firms and clients to technology companies like Intapp and NetDocs. For example, [they] recently gathered several ELM providers to collaborate on common data categories to improve the legal billing work stream.’


SALI Members include, (among others)

  • Association of Legal Administrators
  • International Legal Technology Association (ILTA)
  • Baker McKenzie
  • Bloomberg Law
  • Clifford Chance
  • Fish & Richardson
  • GSK
  • Goulston & Storrs
  • Greenberg Traurig
  • Intapp
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • LexisNexis
  • Mishcon de Reya
  • NetDocuments
  • Shearman & Sterling
  • Shell
  • Thomson Reuters
  • WilmerHale
  • Winston & Strawn
  • Wolters Kluwer

And here are some of the ‘Endorsers’

  • ACC
  • Baker Donelson
  • Citigroup
  • CLOC
  • Fastcase
  • Foundation Software Group
  • Microsoft
  • Reynen Court

And it’s worth adding that in an unofficial way, the Changing Legal think tank is also a strong supporter of what SALI is trying to achieve.