CLOC 2020 London: New legal operations directory launches but law firm integration makes for slow progress

So another CLOC London conference is over and one of the most interesting developments is the launch of a vendor directory on the CLOC website, in which sellers of legal tech and services are able, for a price, to list their offering, with a view to helping in-house counsel understand the products and services available in the market.

While the directory is currently basic and the detail and future direction still has to be fleshed out, the ambition is for it ultimately to include a user rating system. CLOC board member Jamal Stockton, head of innovation and technology at Fidelity Investment, told me: “The focus is very much the tools and services on offer and the vendor provides the content. It’s a general description in the hope that it evolves. We hope that people will start to rate vendors.”

Perhaps more contentiously (which is a good thing), there are plans afoot to review law firms in terms of their performance and capability in a Yelp type community review. A number of law firm logos are currently listed in the ops directory but this is very much a future ambition. 

CLOC launched a law firm legal community last year and conversations are afoot as to how the powerful legal ops organisation can combine its core corporate and law firm communities. As things stand, the two are still very separate and from conversations with law firms at the conference, one senses that progress is slow. The challenge is this: CLOC still isn’t clear on how to bring law firms into the fold in a meaningful way without diluting its value to its core member base by effectively introducing sellers. Don’t forget, CLOC is run by people with other (big) jobs. But if it does work out how to complete the circle – or triangle – between legal service providers, vendors and legal ops/corporate heads, ILTA could be in trouble.

In terms of the conference itself, CLOC 2020 London again took place in the Landmark Hotel and was well attended, albeit with very mixed feedback in terms of the content.

The first (half) day – and I say this anecdotally as I wasn’t there – had a strong focus on soft skills and growth development, with a talk from former BBC anchor Jacqui Harper setting out how to develop a presence – something that is key if you’re dealing with the strong characters at board level. This was welcomed by some and very much not by others – the trouble with CLOC is that its audience range so vastly in knowledge and experience and it will always be a challenge trying to cater for all. One piece of praise was that there were lots of breaks and opportunities to network, which is why many are there. The opening talk on tools, tech and processes by Dan Katz was well-received – if you’ve heard Dan talk you’ll know his brain runs about three times the speed of most of us and the volume of information you will consume during a talk often matches that.

Interestingly, one of the wider criticisms of the conference, was that there was nothing ‘new’ and more of the people I spoke to were critical of the content this year than positive. I’d love to hear your views either way.

I personally enjoyed the day two talk on using metrics to set outside counsel expectations, run by Jamal and Vincent Cordo, central legal officer at Shell. Both talked about using metrics and KPIs to review and select trusted advisers at the right price. Can you show improved outcomes, Jamal was asked by a member of the audience. Erm, yes, Fidelity, in large part thanks to the outside counsel database it has built, has moved from instructing 400 law firms to 150.

Jamal mentioned that the KM system draws from data in its core systems including Oracle and iManage in a shoutout that led to an influx of people at the iManage stand during the afternoon break.

Overall, CLOC always comes to town with a bang but it is expensive and the feedback – mostly said with hope, not anger – is that the organisation is capable of more.

FYI, if you want to know what tech law firms are using look no further than our free and market leading UK top 200. We have a top 200 DMS report for the US and are still working on – but getting closer! – to the US top 200.