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June 27, 2018

How CLOC is helping law firms to improve efficiency (Part 3 of 3)

While the CLOC LPM initiative described in Part 2 of this series was aimed at LPM novices, other CLOC initiatives are aimed at those who already accept the need for LPM and are digging into the details of how to implement it. 

For example, the Patent Prosecution Initiative was designed to establish “a common language and framework” for in-house legal departments to use when defining scope for patent prosecution work. This initiative aims to:

  • Speed up the process
  • Reduce misunderstandings and miscommunications in defining scope
  • Design fee schedules, and
  • Help manage budgets

According to a May 2017 article in Corporate Counsel, this document grew out of the work of May O’Carroll as head of the Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy team at Google, and it incorporated contributions from more than 60 companies, law firms and other third parties.

The CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) Patent Prosecution Deliverable Framework can easily be downloaded from CLOC’s webpage. It lists 21 core deliverables, from the “Pre-filing Assessment” to “Issuance” and “Appeal.”  Each is described in detail, along with “add-on options” and suggested UTBMS task codes.

According to Doug Luftman, currently General Counsel at Nomis:

This approach will provide us all with a way to more effectively manage our budgets. We also will be able to more successfully track how efficient projects are. Further, we will be able to more easily develop new benchmarks (so that we are comparing apples to apples) and gain a better understanding into how we are all performing.

In an interview for this post, James Hannigan, formerly a Project Manager at Fenwick & West and a member of CLOC’s core working group for this initiative, argued that if companies begin to adopt this new standard, they will increasingly demand that law firms also adopt project management techniques when they perform work:

Clients will have access to more precise data, which will compel the firms to manage the budget more effectively.  Project management will be easier to implement because the data is available to properly do it

According to Aileen Leventon, Principal of Edge International, this and other CLOC initiatives can help law firms take a more sophisticated approach with their clients. 

Law firms tend to look at clients as a monolith, whether it’s a single point of contact or a full law department.  But CLOC takes a supply chain approach, identifying and improving the various handoffs that go on between an internal business client and the law department, within the law department, and with outside counsel.

To the extent that CLOC’s approach is embraced by in-house counsel, Leventon believes it will have a significant impact on law firms for many reasons, including:

  • Law firms will have to accelerate their use of LPM.
  • Law firms that have embraced LPM will need to become familiar with the CLOC framework.
  • In-house counsel will become more efficient in serving their internal clients.
  • In-house counsel will be better prepared to define a successful outcome, which will result in better formulations for setting objectives and defining scope.
  • Budgeting and changes in assumptions will be easier to articulate with a systematic process that in-house lawyers better understand.

On the last day of the first CLOC conference (held in 2016), a panel discussion examined the issue of “why law firms are not responding faster and more fully to their clients’ needs and demands for improved legal service at more reasonable fees.” According to panelist Ralph Baxter, former Chairman and CEO of Orrick and currently Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, the panel discussed:

How clients can achieve the change they need from their law firms instead of in spite of them. . .. The pace of change is painfully slow [because many law firms] lack the motivation and resolve to [change].

Baxter went on to describe how CLOC’s influence is being noticed within the legal industry: 

CLOC is quickly becoming one of the most influential players in legal service delivery… CLOC members have an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate change… They have the mandate, they have the motivation and they have the buyers’ power.  And, thanks to CLOC, they are organized.  

While law firms have made substantial progress in the two years since Baxter wrote these words, there is still a very long way to go. 

So, if you are committed to meeting client needs through LPM and increased efficiency, and you don’t yet know much about CLOC, it’s time to learn more.

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