Vice chair Tania Daniels makes the case that all legal ops professionals, regardless of experience level, can benefit from the ACC Legal Operations events and resources.
CCBJ: Congratulations on recently being named vice chair of ACC Legal Operations. What were some of the key presentations offered at the group’s latest conference in Chicago?
Tania Daniels: There were two fabulous blockchain sessions, one explaining what blockchain is and one on the legal and regulatory complexities as well as practical uses. There’s always a need in these conferences to cover the latest new technology, to ask what’s the buzzword, what are people doing, are people actually using it.
There were some excellent sessions on AFAs, or alternative fee agreements, and financial management. We in legal operations struggle with how to create the mutually beneficial financial relationship with our firms. Three people from large companies and one from a law firm addressed this specific issue.
And the shark tanks – interactive workshops that include “Shark Tank”–style pitches allowing comparison of legal service vendors – are always valuable for our membership to see new, different tools focusing on different issues.
Many attendees at these events are likely there for the first time. How do you make the case that people who are more experienced in legal operations should keep coming back?
We want the organization to serve more than just the first timers. They are very important, and we’re thrilled that our resources are helping them, but we want to make sure that for people on the more mature end of the profession, there’s also content there for them.
For me, when you have been doing this for a while, the value is in the networking and developing relationships with your colleagues. I could give numerous examples of times when we have begun a project or are in the middle of a project and I’ve touched base with ACC Legal Operations colleagues and received invaluable information from them. At this conference in Chicago, I met new people who I know I will be talking with in the future and who will bring information and value to me and my company.
Also, there’s so much out there. There’s always an area, even if you’ve been at it a long time, that you may not be as familiar with, so there’s always something to learn. All legal operations professionals want to know what is on the cusp. What’s on the verge?
How did you become involved with the organization to begin with? What have been the benefits to you, both personally and professionally?
I was one of the people there at the beginning. I met Catherine Moynihan, ACC Associate Vice President, Legal Management Services, at a conference before legal operations was really formed as a profession and had a name. I recall sitting with her and advocating that the ACC would be the perfect home for a legal operations organization because we could take advantage of all the resources of the ACC, come together as a community and develop the types of tools and best practices that we were looking for.
At the start, we were simply looking for a home to plan for conferences and regional groups to come together and take advantage of a larger national organization’s resources. That evolved into getting like-minded people together as well, which ultimately became our interest groups. So, if you’re interested in vendor management or you are interested in technology or internal resource management, you have a place where you can talk to other professionals.
I never would have fostered as many and as deep relationships with my colleagues if it wasn’t for the ACC Legal Ops section providing these regional meetings and interest group meetings and, most importantly, the face-to-face conference, which is where the connections are key.
As you move forward as vice chair, what are some of your goals and hopes for the continued development of the group?
In taking on the role of vice chair, I am struck that we are in a tremendous era of change, both in technology and business models, for providing legal services and by the growth of legal operations as a profession. It’s a very exciting time, and the more the merrier. People are testing some interesting and unique platforms, processes and policies, and the more who join and share their knowledge and experiences, the better we will be as a profession.
My overarching hope is that we can continue with our member-driven focus as our top objective as we flesh out other programs, concentrating on the top priorities from our members. That was really our goal when we created this – this was meant to be an organization by members for members.
More specifically, I would like us to continue to build out the toolkit. It was originally developed to take people at the beginning phase to an intermediate one. Now there are opportunities to help more mature legal operations departments continue to advance. As this often involves organizational and cultural dynamics, in addition to process and technology changes, we want to be thoughtful about what resources will help these departments continue to grow.
One of the most exciting developments is that we will be combining our legal operations conference and the ACC Mid-Year Meeting next year into a new conference, the ACC Xchange, in April in Minneapolis. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can combine our role with the larger conference, and share our knowledge with the greater ACC community, but also gain more from the ACC community for our legal operations members.