Mary O'Carroll Mary O’Carroll, head of legal ops at Google, delivering her opening remarks at CLOC’s 2019 Vegas Institute as president of the Corporate Legal Operation Consortium. Photo: Caroline Spiezio/ALM

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium announced at its annual Vegas Institute on Tuesday that it would begin offering a form of membership to lawyers at firms.

Mary O’Carroll, the president of the legal operations networking group and head of legal ops at Google, revealed in her opening remarks Tuesday morning that CLOC will begin beta testing membership for law firms in “a couple months.” She said expanding membership opportunities to outside counsel could allow for closer alignment and understanding between firms and legal departments.

“We believe CLOC has a huge role to play in bridging that divide and driving change at scale. And so right now we’re really actively working on getting law firms more engaged in the CLOC community,” O’Carroll said. CLOC is also working with firms and other organizations on a study to outline the needs in-house teams have for their outside counsel.

At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, CLOC board members stressed that outside counsel will not be granted access to in-house counsel and legal ops professionals’ CLOC forum, in part to combat concerns that firm lawyers could use the network to build business rather than collaborate on innovation. Instead, outside counsel will have their own CLOC forum, which in-house counsel can opt to participate in to work on overlapping issues, such as legal industry diversity.

Board member Lisa Konie, Adobe Inc.’s senior director of legal ops, said CLOC is beta testing with law firms already involved with the community. The law firm beta test membership will not initially be open to members of the Big Four, though board members said that could be a future possibility.

CLOC’s law firm membership announcement comes more than four months after the resignation of CLOC founder and former president Connie Brenton, who said in a January interview her departure was sparked in part by disagreements over offering firm lawyers membership. Brenton said she advocated for law firm memberships, facing pushback from others on CLOC’s leadership team.

In the press briefing, CLOC board members said opening up membership to outside counsel has long been a goal of the organization, one made possible by the relatively recent hiring of full-time staff, and not a decision impacted by Brenton’s departure.

O’Carroll addressed CLOC’s leadership shakeup in her opening speech, to a crowd of many of the institute’s 2,200 registered attendees.

“Anytime you have a big community, one that’s evolving and shifting and changing, you’re going to have different ideas and philosophies,” O’Carroll said. “Not everyone sees the world exactly the same way. As we explored this as a leadership team, we found that we saw priorities in a different way. And those divides and perspectives and priorities only grew over time, to the point where it just made sense for us to go in different directions.”

CLOC’s new leadership board hopes to bring the group back to its “roots,” she added, by focusing on the legal ops community. O’Carroll said Tuesday morning that CLOC’s fastest growth quarter was first quarter 2019 and that Vegas Institute registered attendance grew by 400 professionals since last year.