The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium has taken another step toward opening its ranks to law firms by forming a new “community” for law firm operations professionals.
The move is a recognition that firms have grown their legal operations staffs—and by extension, their IT, legal technology and innovation teams. It also signals that in-house ops staff at firms face the same challenges as corporate legal teams, which have been viewed as earlier tech adopters than their outside counsel.
CLOC, which was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2016, has traditionally been a resource for corporate in-house legal teams to collaborate and share knowledge about best practices. But the group come under pressure in recent years to allow outside counsel at law firms to join.
CLOC President Mary O’Carroll told Bloomberg Law she sees the benefits in doing so, including the symbiotic effects of more discussions between clients and outside counsel.
“CLOC has always been a proponent of benefiting everyone in the legal community,” she said.
O’Carroll, director of legal operations at Google, opened the door part way during CLOC’s annual conference in Las Vegas in May, during which she announced that the group would begin offering a type of membership to law firm attorneys. Previously, membership had been restricted to in-house legal teams.
O’Carroll said she understands the concerns of some at CLOC that law firms might take advantage of group memberships by using their closer proximity to try to lure new clients, instead of as a way to develop legal tech and spur innovations. “I’ve heard the concerns about their ability to talk freely among themselves” inside the the group’s in-house team conversation forums, she said.
CLOC’s response is to offer a limited type of membership for law firms, which does not allow access to the in-house forums, she said, but instead creates a type of “add-on community.”
The community will take the form of a dedicated CLOC Law Firm Community website where discussions can take shape regarding legal operations successes and challenges.
The goal is for traditional members to join the conversations to inform discussions about topics ranging from billing to diversity and inclusion.
“Law Firms have been asking for a seat at the table and to be a part of the conversation in driving change in legal operations,” said Mike Haven, a CLOC board member and head of legal operations at Gap Inc., in a statement. “The new Law Firm Community is designed to encourage collaboration and sharing between all facets of the legal sphere in order to transform legal operations.”
The May announcement from O’Carroll came a few months after the CLOC founder and former president Connie Brenton stepped down, in part reportedly over her concerns that the group needed to be more open to law firm membership.