CLOC’s European Institute 2019 – the key takeaways

CLOC’s London conference went off without a hitch on Monday and Tuesday this week in the very plush Landmark Hotel in London, which certainly felt like something of a statement about how far the organisation has come internationally.

The event, which almost doubled in size from the inaugural London institute last year, has grown to around 400 delegates – a mix of legal operations staff, law firm innovation heads, the odd CIO, legal tech enthusiasts and a raft of vendors. This is notably CLOC’s European conference (‘institute’ in CLOC speak) and there were plenty of people from the Continent including Juniper Networks chief of staff and head of worldwide Legal Operations at Juniper Networks, Hans Alber, who also happens to be president of the ACC.

Legal IT Insider was there in large part to interview new president Mary O’Carroll about CLOC’s strategy going forward, and that interview will appear in the Orange Rag out next week, but we’ve (not surprisingly) been asked what the key takeaways were from the conference.

– While the content looked at a glance to be at risk of being repetitive of speakers and content heard elsewhere, the feedback from delegates was good. One legal operations head at a financial institution was particularly impressed by a talk on Metrics – Demystified by Lisa Konie and observed that the content was better than at most other conferences.

– One of the most interesting albeit leftfield sessions was by law firm consultant Larry Richard, who talked about the five fundamental behaviours that enable leaders to follow and the seven unique personality traits of lawyers that equip them to be excellent at law but terrible at leadership. Useful for anyone who is a lawyer or works with lawyers and wants to understand how to make headway with eg transformation programmes. Traits among lawyers that you will instantly recognise include a high sense of urgency (great for getting things done quickly, less so for good relations); and being completely unable to take criticism. We’ll bring you more in depth on this session separately.

– We haven’t seen the breakdown of attendees, but it felt like legal operations heads/staff were very much in the minority. While membership of CLOC is exclusively in-house at the moment (more on that later), the institutes are open to law firms (and obviously the vendors who make it possible). In the UK there are far fewer legal ops heads than in the US so it wouldn’t be surprising if they were in the minority. But if legal ops teams were looking for a meeting of their own kind, this wasn’t it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you need both law firms and legal ops to have a sensible conversation about progress and working together. But it does demonstrate the challenge for CLOC as it grows and looks at incorporating law firms into the membership without diluting its existing corporate offering.

– Vendors – and there were a lot of them this year – felt that they didn’t get much time with delegates because, aside from lunch, the breaks between sessions were only 15 minutes long. However, the vendors we spoke to also observed that in terms of the people they did meet, it was an excellent conference.

– CLOC is putting politics behind it and already felt like a settled ship after the departure of former president Connie Brenton and board member Jeff Franke shortly before the conference. O’Carroll acknowledge the departures at the start of the conference and one delegate commented that it was “awkward” but we say well done for not brushing it under the carpet and pretending that it hadn’t happened. It was always going to be a bit awkward.

– O’Carroll said in her interview with us that she wants to go back to CLOC’s roots and focus on collaboration and education. The priorities for this year will include looking at how to expand the membership to law firms without diluting what it already offers legal ops staff. You can sign up for the Orange Rag, out on 30 January, here:

If you want to add your experiences of the day, be that the content or otherwise, please do so in the comments below if possible – social media is fab but can be a bit disjointed.