Professor Richard Susskind has called on in-house lawyers to revolutionise their approach to legal services, saying they have “tolerated” old-fashioned law firm methods for too long.
He was speaking at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s (CLOC) inaugural London conference, which took place yesterday (23 January) on the back of the organisation’s European launch last year.
CLOC, which was founded in the US in 2010, describes itself as the ‘go-to’ organisation for information about legal operations and networking opportunities for specialists in this line of work.
More than 180 legal operations professionals, GCs, lawyers and technology providers attended the London event, which focused on the rise of legal operations professionals and how they can drive change in the legal sector.
Susskind – who opened the conference alongside CLOC chief executive Connie Brenton – highlighted the rise of technology and the role of legal operations in breaking down traditional ways of working.
“In-house lawyers have tolerated law firms’ old-fashioned ways of working. Clients don’t want just professionals; they want the outcomes they bring, and different ways of delivering them,” he said. ”CLOC is a collective voice, and in-house lawyers can reconceptualise how legal services are delivered. The future of legal services is within the grasp of CLOC.”
Commenting on driving through change and cost savings, Susskind said: “Even before the economic downturn, GCs were under pressure to reduce legal spend and headcount. There is now less resource and more demand. We can either be more efficient and cut costs that way, or use a collaboration strategy and share the costs.
“We are moving towards an open source concept of legal content. There are growing groups of in-house functions coming together to share techniques and content. We need to be more sophisticated about sharing.”
Susskind criticised the view held by some that artificial intelligence (AI) has already significantly impacted the legal sector, arguing that the most important changes are still to come. “AI is now a verb – I hear people saying: ‘We can AI that’. People are just talking almost randomly about these technologies.
“The short-term predictions overstate the impact. However, in the long term, by the late 2020s or 2030s, it is hard to avoid the the conclusion that this isn’t going to replace fundamental parts of legal services.”
Other speakers at the event included legal operations heads from Google, Facebook, BT, Vodafone and Gap, as well as Barclays relationship management head Chris Grant and Cisco deputy general counsel Steve Harmon.
Sessions looked at subjects including escalating legal operations from the ground up, how to challenge traditional operating models in legal departments, and a discussion on effective legal panel management.
CLOC president Brenton, chief of staff and senior director of legal operations at US data management company Netapp, commented: “The role of the GC has changed – the industry is moving at a quick pace and we can barely keep up with the changes. If you don’t have an operations role, it is going to be irresponsible. You can’t run a legal department without operational efficiency.”