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Six super takeaways from the annual Legal Operations Summit

26 April 2023

Our team recently attended the 3rd Annual Legal Operations Summit in Berlin.  Craig Chaplin provides his thoughts on the key themes and takeaways from the event.  Read more.

I was lucky enough to be able to present to a wonderfully interactive audience at the 3rd Annual Legal Operations Summit in Berlin last week. Hats off to the event organisers Luxatia International for assembling a great pool of speakers talking on a broad range of legal operations specific subjects. 

My colleague Emma Roe and I had some fun helping attendees practice different types of creative thinking using examples and methodologies which have previously yielded some great results. I'll write about that another time. For now I will restrict myself to attempting to summarise the key themes and takeaways from the event.

1. We are all going to be replaced by computers in the next 12 months

Okay, so that might have been attention grabbing click bait. Clearly this is an area of huge interest at the moment due to AI creating Award Winning Photographs and chart topping hits. As we all know that the legal world is slightly slower moving but James May provided a personal overview of what is out there and how it could be deployed to supercharge legal teams. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that suppliers could deploy Chat GPT to empower their lawyers through augmented intelligence and the good ones are looking at this seriously. It feels like we are approaching a tipping point where reasonable quality legal outputs using AI could be validated by a lawyer and used to answer many of the frequently asked questions posed by clients. 

2. Legal teams are all on the same journey (but perhaps at different stages of our quest)

What did become clear throughout this conference and the hundreds of client conversations we have previously facilitated is that there aren’t many unique problems out there. Once you understand where a team is up to in its legal operations maturity curve it is quite easy to work out the problems that require resolution for that stage. This may be the need to collect and analyse data about what your team are doing each day, a desire to create templates and playbooks or a burning desire to get organised using tech. Whilst heads of teams may prioritise differently depending on the strategic objectives of their businesses, they end up tackling the same problems, perhaps just in a different order. 

3. "If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution" (Steve Jobs)  

The most observed starting point for your legal operations "quest" (thanks to Stephanie Hamon for the Lord of the Rings analogy) is writing an accurate problem statement which ensures clarify, consensus and buy in from team members and stakeholders alike. Ironically one of the biggest problems we have as a legal operations and technology consulting business is the poor articulation by clients of their own issues both in conversations and, more worryingly, in RFI's and RFP's! Too many times the legal operations journey of a client has a false start because they've articulated the need for a legal technological silver bullet as an instant fix. Sadly we know through experience that life isn’t quite like that. 

4. Emails are the enemy of the legal team  

One of the greatest area of consensus at the conference was the fact that emails just "aren’t that useful" because they hide actionable data in an unstructured urgent diatribe. Thank you Justin Turman Stryker for articulating that very clearly. Anoek Gastelaars de Greef went one better and hosted a live email "hacks" discussion. The challenge seems to be that whilst businesses find intake forms terribly prescriptive and impersonal they are also the best way for lawyers to gather the exact data they need in order to be able to complete a task.  Those who have managed to deploy structured intake achieve efficiencies and improvements in response and turnaround times due to a greater level of automation. The key success factor here is mainly due to how you engage with…….

5. People!!!  

Helen Lowe and Mipe Okunseinde both spoke passionately about putting people at the centre of everything you do in the legal operations space and how there is a real opportunity to deepen relationships between legal teams and their business partners as co-collaborators. Helen deploys style guides and golden rules for her team and their suppliers (rule number 1 is have fun!) and encourages plain speaking, brutal honesty and relationship building. Great engagement is the by-product of this intentional effort which doesn’t happen by accident. 

6. We need to talk about Junior People

Amazingly until we got to the airport no one spoke over those two days about how we can train and develop our junior lawyers against the back drop of hybrid office working, playbooks and template automation and Chat GPT. My feeling is that this hasn’t been addressed properly since the pandemic and it’s a problem that remains to be solved. If anyone has any ideas or thoughts on this point I'd be grateful to hear them. I know for a fact that I'm only the legal professional I am today because great people invested time and effort on a daily basis training me to be good and I do worry about how people like me cope today when left more to their own devices. 

And that happy note concludes my super six – let me know what you think.

Further Reading