In the latest issue of its Bulletin to members, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) focused on how workflow automation is going to transform legal ops, in what NALP’s Executive Director, James G. Leipold, terms as nothing less than a “revolution.”
For those not familiar with NALP, it’s an association of over 2,500 legal career professionals that’s been around for over 40 years, advising law students, lawyers, law offices, and law schools in North America and elsewhere.
Their concentration? On collecting and publishing accurate legal employment data and information, and pushing for education and standards in recruiting, professional and career development, and diversity and inclusion.
In his column, Mr. Leipold says he’s “more convinced than ever that the law firm world as we know it is going to be forced to change in ways that most law firm leaders and law firm lawyers have not yet begun to grapple with.” What really drove that home for him? His attendance at last May’s CLOC Institute 2017 conference, where he observed how…
…virtually every legal technology vendor in the artificial intelligence space was there. Alas, the number of law firms represented was relatively small and the number of law school participants could be counted on one hand.
Why should legal leaders and educators be paying more attention? As he explains, it has to do with the growth of corporate legal operations departments charged with streamlining legal functions, and who are leveraging technology to create efficiencies. They’re also tasked with procuring outside legal services and using these new tools to wring more efficiency out of those relationships, too.
As he points out,
Inevitably technologies will take on more and more of the work of lawyers, and legal operations professionals are actively engaged in figuring out how that development can be leveraged to save corporations money.
CLOC is where the “rubber meets the road” in extracting costs from the legal services industry and fulfilling some very expert prophesies about its future, as he explains. “If you think we’ve already seen disruption in the legal services industry, hold onto your hat.”
Reengineering the legal department
Legal Ops teams will be using technology to manage document review, e-discovery, contract operations, compliance functions, and to automate “as many tasks as they can as fast as they can,” as he puts it, applying design thinking to “reengineer every function of the corporate legal department.”
One outcome? “Rather than being a perennial cost center, through legal ops the legal department is now driving value at some of the largest corporations.”
That’s absolutely what we’ve observed, too. Legal Ops teams have turned workflow automation into a bottom-line boon for their enterprises, and have delivered benefits in terms of budgetary savings and better service that are welcomed at NPOs and government agencies, too.
His organization’s role in this, moving forward? It’s one we’re happy to endorse: As he puts it, the advances demonstrated at CLOC mean NALP will need to explore how it might “best educate its members about these changes so that all of us can best support tomorrow’s lawyers.”