CLOC Dispatch #2: How Do Legal Ops Professionals Go Pro?

By Casey Flaherty, Chief Strategy Officer, LexFusion.

Many legal operations personnel have no idea what they are doing. This is not an insult. It is math. Many legal operations roles are net new. Jobs that have never existed before are, by definition, being filled (or backfilled) by people who have never done them before.

There is no shame in inexperience. We should not expect instant excellence from a baseball player the first time they are handed a golf club, or from a pianist the first time they pick up a guitar. While we may anticipate adjacent skills will accelerate progress up the learning curve, the curve still exists. So, when and where does the learning take place for the aspiring legal operations professional?

In the before times, legal operations pioneers were mostly self-taught solo acts. Eventually, not only did they begin to grow (and train) their own teams, they also began to connect with fellow travelers. This is the origin of CLOC – a community collectively establishing and disseminating best practices while training the new recruits – and the origin of CGI (CLOC Global Institute).

‘The original nine board members had a vision to elevate the legal operations profession into a career. They formed the first CLOC Institute in 2016 to educate others of best practices, lessons learned and connect a community for knowledge sharing. The end goal was to have every session of the institute deliver a checklist of take always to create value within the community.

‘This is still the goal in 2022 for over 4,000 members to educate the ecosystem of our members, our firms and other professional legal service providers,’ explains Christine Coats, Vice-President of Legal Operations and CLOC Executive Board Member.

Group dynamics change with size. Just as CLOC matured from informal gatherings to a professionally run organization, CLOC’s approach to education is also becoming more formal, (while maintaining the less formal online and in-person channels like message boards and the hallway conversation at CGI).

In December 2021, CLOC announced the first members of its new Education Advisory Council (EAC). As part of the announcement, Mike Haven, Head of Legal Operations at Intel and President, shared: ‘At CLOC, our mission is to move the business of law forward. To do this, it is critical for us to constantly evolve our educational offerings. This outstanding group of thought leaders will offer their leadership, expertise and unique perspectives to keep our content fresh, cutting-edge and relevant to all segments of the legal ecosystem.’

In addition to selecting the 71 panels for CGI (out of 212 submissions), the EAC also developed a Legal Ops 101 Workshop as a pre-conference, which CLOC announced in March and took place yesterday. As the 101 title implies, the content was specifically designed for early career legal operations professionals. ‘We believe this curriculum will become a keystone in onboarding legal operations professionals across the legal industry,’ says Nicole Zafian, Head of Content and Education at CLOC.

Carl Morrison, Director of Legal Operations for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, EAC member, and Legal Ops 101 presenter, comments: ‘Having attended a CLOC Global Institute early in my professional career, I was able to bring back to my company new ideas, resources and tools to improve processes, develop financial management skills, and build the best strategic plan for the legal department. This workshop will set participants, and their employers, on the path to success in managing people, payments and processes.’

Most pithily, Laura Dieudonné, one of Morrison’s co-presenters, fellow EAC member, and Legal Operations and Administration Director for Delta Air Lines, states: ‘This is something I wish I had available to me when I started my career in legal operations.’

I’ve been in this game a long time – both legal operations and education. I’m a massive proponent of these types of initiatives. And, though I have many notes (as the perennial holder of many non-consensus views), I thoroughly enjoyed the three-hour workshop built around the CLOC Core 12.

Given my own priors, my favourite part was the express decision the presenters made to make technology the last topic covered, because it allowed them to address the allure, and danger, of tech-first solutioning.

This was one of the many excellent takeaways for a sold-out crowd of 171 new legal operations professionals, as well as a calibrated primer for their first CGI, which officially starts today.

Many thanks to Casey for this dispatch from the CLOC CGI event in Las Vegas, written for Artificial Lawyer.

About the Author:

Casey Flaherty is the Chief Strategy Officer of LexFusion, which helps clients to engage with a collaborative circle of curated legal innovation companies. Previously he has been: Director of Legal Project Management at Baker McKenzie, Corporate Counsel at Kia Motors America, and an Associate at Holland & Knight. (N.B. Main pic credit also to Casey.)

Conference Promotion:

Legal Innovators California – June 9, San Francisco – All-Day, In-Person Legal Innovation Conference.

If you found the themes discussed here of interest then come along to Legal Innovators California conference on June 9, in San Francisco, where we will be exploring a range of subjects, from legal ops to legal tech and much more, with many great speakers from across the industry. 

Ticket information can be found here.

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