The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) has unveiled plans to restructure and expand its membership model to include the entire legal ecosystem, in a move that, if they deliver on it in a meaningful way, would see them become the first industry body to sew up the in-house and private practice market together with legal tech vendors and ALSPs. However, the devil will be in the detail, which we understand is still being worked out, and it appears that there will still be segregation to protect the needs of the legal operations professionals that are at the heart of the organisation.

The CLOC Board of Directors said today (10 November) during its online global institute that it has decided to invite all parts of the legal community to be members of CLOC. It added that the existing in-house community will remain “intact and unchanged”, with “an additional expanded community to allow for broader participation.”

While law firms have enjoyed some involvement in CLOC since July 2019, when CLOC formed a law firm ‘community’, this is the first time that legal tech vendors and ALSPs have been welcomed.

Mary O’Carroll, President of the Board, welcomed the expansion and said: “CLOC positions itself as an organization that embraces the ecosystem, but to date, we have not demonstrated that to those outside of in-house legal departments and law firms. In order to truly support the evolution of the business of law, we need all parties involved and collaborating.”

Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Pinsent Masons’ director of client solutions, David Halliwell said: “CLOC is looking to create a forum for the whole ecosystem. It’s a shift for CLOC, which focussed just on the in-house market. They were worried about being sold to by providers, but they recognise that if you want to effect change you need to include all parts of the ecosystem.”

Under this new model, any professional who engages in the legal industry is qualified to become a member. Within the member community, individuals are categorized by their role in the ecosystem and receive access and benefits “specific to their needs.” CLOC’s member-exclusive forum will be reimagined to support the change, including a new user interface, interactive features, and engagement initiatives. Those who currently participate in the in-house legal community will, CLOC says, “continue to have their space for focused dialogue.”

The devil will be in how much segregation there really is: CLOC is right to protect legal operations members from being sold to and to continue providing a safe and neutral space for them to exchange ideas. But too much segregation will mean that membership becomes meaningless.

One of the huge advantages CLOC has is that they speak with the voice of the client and Halliwell added: “They are such a big organisation and the advantage they have from a law firm perspective is that they are the voice of the client telling us how they want us to deliver our services.”

The announcement may be bad news for the International Legal Technology Association, particularly if it means that it now competes more than ever with CLOC for vendor revenue.

Legal professionals interested in joining can formally begin signing up in early 2021. Those who currently participate in the in-house legal community will continue to have their space for focused dialogue. This in-house forum will also be reimagined in early 2021 in conjunction with the new membership model.