Thoughts on Legal Operations for Law Students, Diversity & Inclusion and More - Priori

Thoughts on Legal Operations for Law Students, Diversity & Inclusion and More

By Priori Legal

23-05-23 Tiny Mic Blog Post 

Taking our “Tiny Mic, Big Ideas” series to Vegas for the Latest in Legal Ops – Part 2

There were a number of running threads for legal operations professionals at the 2023 CLOC Global Institute (CGI). Whether it was the importance of legal ops for law students, diversity and inclusion or partnering with the business, Priori Marketplace Network Director David Drew was on the scene asking legal ops professionals about what the present and future of legal ops looks like for our “Tiny Mic, Big Ideas” interview series. Read on to find out about the big ideas the legal ops professionals on the CGI show floor were talking about. And check out Part 1 for more insight, including what they think about generative AI and the legal ops community.

Legal Operations at Law School

julian-tsisin-headshot“We’re hitting the time where everything we used to know is not as applicable as it used to be and we should all get educated on the new topics. Especially for me, near and dear to my heart is artificial intelligence. And I am certain that everybody can understand what AI can do, the capabilities of AI, and how it can help us, specifically in the legal field. To me, it’s really about educating yourself and educating your stakeholders and your teams and the people around you. … Law schools are doing a great job preparing lawyers for the 20th century and until law schools change how they educate lawyers, individual law school students should take this up and do it themselves. They should start educating themselves on all these topics.” 

– Julian Tsisin, Director, Global Legal and Compliance Technology, Meta


jerry-levine-headshot“[The big thing] is that, and I truly believe this, law schools are waking up about the benefits of legal ops as a career. They’re not just going and saying, ‘Hey, you’re a lawyer.’ They’re actually trying to build programs around, how do you run a law department? How do you operate? What do you need to know not just to be a lawyer, but to do this better? There’s #GenO, Generation Operations, there are all these new folks. It’s all starting to come together because it’s all starting to mature into a real life, real skill to have. And, of course, as we build out new technology, we build out more of this process. People are beginning to really want to focus on legal technology and legal operations as a career more so than they did a few years ago. And it’s driving an uptick in legal services, an uptick in all of these businesses that are here. Hopefully it continues because it really is a big change and maybe we can finally bring lawyers into the future, and not [have them] sending faxes.”

– Jerry Levine, Chief Evangelist & General Counsel, ContractPodAi

And, on advice for people going to law school interested in legal ops:

“There are some law schools that have really focused on it: Vanderbilt, Emory, New Hampshire Law, UC Hastings, Duke, North Carolina Coastal University … but ultimately find courses that reflect that. Don't just take—as much fun as taking Introduction to State Constitutional law of the 1840s may sound, it's something that you're probably never going to really use in real life—but really look for programs that are starting to focus on what's out there in the real world for lawyers. When you're looking at externships or internships, if you're a student, start looking at those. And if you're making the switch, obviously we're here at CLOC, which is all about legal operations—the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium—start picking out areas that are of interest to you and work with them to make that happen.”

– Jerry Levine, Chief Evangelist & General Counsel, ContractPodAi


Improving Diversity for Legal Departments 

darth-vaughn-headshot“If we’re really asking for diverse teams, we need to hire diverse talent. It’s real simple. A company like [Priori] can help in that process, I believe, and [it does]. I think now that we have some tools at our disposal as an industry, we can go out and find the talent we want because it’s more accessible to see where it is. Before, insourcing was based on reputation or was based on prior relationships. Now, we’re just looking for skill sets that can help us with our priorities and help us in advancing and protecting and defending the company’s interest. So, change can occur, but to my earlier point, we have to be intentional about it. I don’t think there’s an excuse for not finding the talent. It’s not because it doesn’t exist.”

– Darth Vaughn, Litigation Counsel and Legal Innovation & Technology Operations Manager, Ford Motor Company


Partnering with the Business

“My big idea is all about getting closer to the business. Legal ops has been so entrenched in supporting legal issues that I think the next evolution in the space that we play in is going to be much more closely tied to the business. There’s plenty of work that’s already been done there, but for me, and this is a big focus of mine at Coinbase, is how do we get to supporting the business a lot better? … I think [that looks like] understanding the business, their pressure points, their roadmaps and how that trickles over to legal. And then making sure we’re connecting the dots and helping legal connect the dots to support them better.”

– Akshay Verma, Director, Head of Legal Operations, Coinbase


jameson-monteiro-headshot“I think you have to take into account what’s going on externally to your organization in the market, how that affects the business that you’re in, and then how you’re going to adapt to that economic situation, depending on your company. I think the biggest thing right now that legal operators, legal operations folks need to focus on is not just the budget and the finance side, but always staying three or four steps ahead of the new development, whether that’s ChatGPT, Bard, etc. I think that’s very important but, ultimately, it’s the relationships that you have with your internal business folks, and how you’re going to build those skill sets that you need to make sure that you keep moving legal ops forward [and] ultimately that you keep moving your business in the right direction.”

– Jameson Monteiro, Vice President, Head of Legal Operations, Assurant


brad-blickstein-headshot“I think that over time, legal ops people and the people with similar jobs at law firms—I’m talking about pricing people, project management people, innovation people—are going to be the main point of interface between law firms and law departments. Less interaction between AGCs and partners and more interaction between the business people on both sides.” 

– Brad Blickstein, Principal, Blickstein Group, and Partner & Co-Head, NewLaw Practice Group, Baretz+Brunelle

And, on legal operations as a maturing profession: 

“[My hot take is] what I think is interesting is that the legal ops function is both maturing and becoming less mature at the same time, because some law departments are really digging in and buying in and bringing in very experienced, great legal ops leaders in a Chief of Staff-type role, but there are a lot of folks out there that were tangential to legal ops weeks or months ago—they were a billing person or a contract management specialist—and now they have a legal ops title. And it feels like we’re getting less mature sometimes because those people are legal ops, but they’re only handling a small part of what a legal ops person really needs to do to make their law department run like a business.” 

– Brad Blickstein, Principal, Blickstein Group, and Partner & Co-Head, NewLaw Practice Group, Baretz+Brunelle

If you weren’t able to attend CLOC Global Institute, follow Priori on LinkedIn to watch our “Tiny Mic, Big Ideas” series live from the show floor.

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