ILTA’s CEO Joy Heath Rush and CLOC’s president Mike Haven discuss the importance of collaboration, as the industry faces new challenges that require a more joined up approach.
I’d love to claim that it was a stroke of journalistic genius that saw me interview Mike Haven and Joy Heath Rush together at CLOC EMEA in London, but in reality, I had a meeting in the diary with one and bumped into the other, who agreed to come for a cup of tea. What proceeded was a fantastic conversation about why, and how, the two organisations need to work together for the benefit of the wider industry.
As a quick recap, CLOC, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, brings together the in-house legal operations community for discussion and ideas sharing around new developments and best practices. ILTA, the International Legal Technology Association, typically does the same thing for anyone who touches technology within and around private practice law firms. Both have very strong communities and loyal members. Both were founded in North America. And both have their flagship annual conference in the US.
Over the years I have written countless column inches about both CLOC and ILTA and typically, never the twain shall meet. Until August this year, when ILTA ran a day and a half CLOC stream at ILTACON in Orlando. Plans are now afoot to reciprocate at CLOC’s flagship Las Vegas Institute. And of course, Heath Rush, who is based in Chicago, attended CLOC in London. Things are definitely changing.
While it is hugely significant that ILTACON 2023 was the first time there has been a CLOC stream, Heath Rush points out that when CLOC was founded in 2016, the two organisations’ leaders knew each other well, and in 2019 (the year Heath Rush formally took over as CEO) the associations worked together quite closely to try to reduce some of the onerous and repetitive work around security audits. That collaboration came to an end thanks to some upheaval within the leadership at CLOC (Connie Brenton resigned as CEO) and a little thing called the pandemic.
“Mike, Farrah [Pepper], Jason [Barnwell], we have all known each other a long time,” says Heath Rush. “At the end of the day people buy from people, and it helps if you know each other.”
People certainly decide the tone of an organisation and Haven, the head of legal operations and associate general counsel at tech giant Intel, who was elected as president of CLOC in 2021, says: “This is not my day job, this is a labour of love. I want to move the industry forward. When I became president, I decided I was going to do my darnedest to bring the ecosystem together. The only way we can move forward is if we do it together. We can’t do it in silos. I’m a huge fan of collaborating with other organisations.”
Haven, who started out as a private practice attorney, was a technology partner at K&L Gates between 2006 and 2013. He adds: “I was going to ILTA 10 years ago and respect the organisation and what they have done. Two powerful non-profit organisations collaborating is going to move the bar.”
First steps: Conference collaboration
Both CLOC and ILTA’s annual US conferences host thousands of people and both are attempting to grow their European presence, which often leads to suggestions that they compete.
It is certainly true that some vendors who play in both worlds have to decide where to prioritise their marketing spend. However, Heath Rush says she dislikes it when people ask her if she sees CLOC as a competitor, observing that ILTA collaborates with other organisations, such as The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), commenting: “There’s room for us all and we’re all mission based.”
At ILTACON this year, the CLOC stream was a closed session for corporate members and a limited number of sponsors, who enabled members to attend for free.
According to Haven, the plan is to do something with ILTA at the next US CLOC conference. While CLOC is all about people, process and technology, it is lighter on the technology side, which is where ILTA has considerable strength and depth. Nothing has been decided yet, but one idea that Heath Rush and Haven have discussed, is having ILTA involved in a tech track at CLOC.
Haven says: “With generative AI, people, process and technology are merging together and we need each other. This is so new, and no-one has the answers – no one is the clear leader in generative AI, we are all trying to figure it out as an industry, and we need to work together to get it right.”
“We absolutely do, because we don’t even really know what the question is yet,” agrees Heath Rush. “I had a large law firm head of innovation tell me recently that they have a policy to never buy anything from any companies that are under five years old, and I said, ‘You don’t plan to buy much in the next five years then!”
Knotty questions: My data, or your data?
One interesting revelation to come out of the CLOC EMEA conference sessions (by a show of hands from the audience) was that there is plenty of early activity around experimenting with generative AI, but (by a further show of hands) that this has not yet made it into corporates’ standard contractual terms.
A big question mark hangs over whether any law firm experimenting with generative AI has updated their engagement letter.
Haven says: “When our law firms are doing anything we need to know what they are doing and what they are trying to do with our data.”
He adds: “Right now that’s the single biggest issue. What is my data and what is your data. We have long been calling out that the work product that law firms prepare belongs to us – they like to keep it for templates. Pre-AI you needed a template, although now you may not need it as much. For many years there has been discussion around who owns the data and now that is a critical conversation.”
Gen AI brainstorming
Intel has created an innovation lab to experiment with new technologies and with regard to gen AI, Haven says: “Everyone should be experimenting with it in some capacity and just getting to know it, because this is not hype, it’s transformation.”
I point out that some of the European firms that were at ILTA this year are still having trouble moving to the cloud, to which Heath Rush acknowledges: “In Europe there is an incredibly strict regulatory climate. In the US we’re not used to that.”
Haven adds: “It will be unfortunate for those firms, because they are falling behind. The National Bureau of Economic Research came out with a study in May that found companies with greater exposure to generative AI have a 0.4 great average daily return than companies with less exposure.”
Heath Rush says: “People don’t realise that it doesn’t have to be on the practice side, there are lots of business case uses.”
ILTA is working with Accenture, which this year acquired digital engineering firm Objectivity, to put together a model for structuring use cases for generative AI and she says: “It makes it seem more like a normal use case assessment, which people like because it is familiar.”
With research and intelligence so key on both sides, one idea being mooted is that ILTA, which conducts an extensive and highly respected law firm technology survey each year, collaborates with CLOC to conduct a corporate legal survey.
While substantive conclusions on anything relating to generative AI are a long way down the track, what is clear is that the profession, more than ever, needs joined up thinking to help prepare people for the changes that are coming.
When it comes to the likes of data, who owns it, and how it is used, it is critical to have those conversations now, rather than, if you’ll forgive the fairly terrible pun, when the gen AI is really and truly out of the bottle.
It takes the right leaders and right culture to make that happen, and the exchange of ideas just in this short time together was a small insight into the art of the possible.