CCBJ sat down with Mike Haven, recently introduced CEO of CLOC, the leading membership organization for legal operations professionals. In this interview, Mr. Haven discusses the future and culture of thIs highly influential organization.
CCBJ: CLOC has a model of core competencies for gauging the maturity of corporate law departments. As you settle in as the new president of the organization, talk about CLOC’s evolution and its own maturity arc.
Mike Haven: It is a relatively young organization, but the growth trajectory has been off the charts. CLOC 1.0 essentially was us standing up. That started almost 10 years ago as a book club of in-house operations professionals blazing a trail. CLOC became an official organization in 2016, and that year we hosted our first Institute with five hundred people attending in San Francisco. That was an amazing start. The next year we moved it to Vegas and doubled attendance. In 2018, we doubled attendance in Vegas yet again and added institutes in London and Sydney. That was phase one of becoming an industry-leading organization.
In CLOC 2.0, the last two years under Mary O’Carroll’s leadership, we added a staff and executive director to run CLOC’s day-to-day business. We also added law firm membership, and then brought in the entire ecosystem. These were major leaps forward. Throughout, membership has increased steadily and CLOC is now a well-known and reliable resource for the entire legal ecosystem. It’s been a really crazy ride. It shows how much the industry craved the transformation that our members are driving.
The functional maturity of our field has evolved, and CLOC has evolved along with it. In 2019, we refreshed our original 12 core competencies and released the CLOC Core 12, which better reflect the modern scope of legal operations. They encompass matters of the mind, as I say, such as legal finance management and business intelligence. But matters of the heart are central to all functional areas and will be a focus in the next phase of our development in CLOC 3.0. We have to support progress in diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, access to justice, and more. We have to show up for our community by keeping these areas front and center. They are critically important to the success of our industry.
You spent part of your career at NetApp, where former CLOC CEO Connie Brenton continues to work. What is it about GC Matt Fawcett’s law department that resonates with legal ops professionals?
Matt Fawcett is a trailblazer. He has been at the forefront of innovation in the legal industry for at least the past decade. When he arrived at NetApp, his first hire was Connie, another trailblazer, and that move in and of itself is a perfect example of how Matt was and is way ahead of his time. Together, Matt and Connie have done so much for our industry. They’re not afraid to go first. They’re not afraid to experiment. They’re not afraid to fail and change course. They’re early adopters and they’re always innovating. What resonates most is their willingness to share learnings from those experiments and innovations. That sharing culture has permeated the industry and is fundamental to the success of CLOC and its members. Sharing knowledge and helping each other is central to our core. That’s something Matt and Connie, and many others, have given us that stuck as a permanent trait of the CLOC community.
Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel wrote a book, High Output Management, that I know you admire. In it, Grove emphasizes the importance of process improvement from a “factory floor” perspective. Talk about the Intel culture and how it might influence your approach to legal operations going forward.
I love this question. High Output Management is a visionary book. The principles explained by Andy Grove in that book have remained omnipresent in Intel culture and are as relevant – or more relevant – than they ever have been. They can be applied to every industry, including legal, and are very much what we believe and are doing in CLOC. I can give a few examples.
First, Mr. Grove teaches us to think about managing our teams in manufacturing terms – to apply those principles in supervising and motivating our employees. If you think about it, everyone is a producer in some capacity. Essentially, managers oversee a production line where work product is created and delivered according to clear expectations for quality, cost, and timeliness. This applies in any context, including legal. And it runs into another emphasis, which is the importance of data analytics. Mr. Grove advises that every team have a set of key performance indicators to measure the impact of the work they’re doing. Business intelligence, or leveraging data analytics and metrics to drive strategy, run operations successfully and achieve big goals, is an important functional area in legal operations.
Another key point in the book is that business has become less predictable. We have to anticipate the unexpected and be emotionally comfortable with it. We all just went through an unexpected year of mental and emotional discomfort like we’ve never experienced before. But that made us more resilient and more open to doing things differently. Legal operations professionals have an opportunity to leverage this muscle that’s been built throughout the department to help facilitate some long-needed changes. That’s a positive, unintended consequence of this challenging time.
Mr. Grove observed that technology makes everything happen faster and allows knowledge to spread more quickly. That has its burdens in addition to the obvious benefits. People can fall into the trap of instant response and taking fewer breaks from work. Intel’s culture recognizes this trap and was emphasizing the importance of protecting our mental health long before the pandemic. For example, our general counsel is adamant that we stay off email while on vacation, and he really means it. Legal operations can help scale required breaks and time off by finding and addressing resource gaps. There’s definitely a role for us to play in supporting that important initiative.
Finally, Mr. Grove talks about how relationships between managers and their reports have changed. That’s obviously been even more of a challenge in the past year. Managers have had to adapt how they’re managing their employees and communicating with them. Proximity between managers and employees is so important. One-on-one meetings are important, as poor communication is the number one reason for employee dissatisfaction. We have to ensure we’re staying proximate and communicating well, even when we can’t be in the office together. I think legal operations can play a big role in helping everybody in the department stay together as much as possible in these crazy, chaotic times.
If you look back, legal ops has been propelled by recessions. It was sort of born out of the dot-com bubble bursting around the turn of the century and gained steam in 2008 during the great recession. Now, coming out of the pandemic, expect operational excellence to move even further up the priority list across the industry.
CLOC has swung open the door to members who are not legal ops professionals in their organizations, including lawyers at big law firms. Does CLOC run the risk of diluting its mission and impact by welcoming different segments of the corporate legal ecosystem into what started out as a book club, which was a pretty small and cozy tent.
I don’t see that as a risk. I see it as an enabler of our mission. The only way we can truly transform the business of law is by getting all segments of the industry rowing in the same direction. We have a symbiotic relationship with all of the members of the ecosystem, and we all need each other to thrive. We have to be united in our vision and our mission to tackle big, challenging problems. Getting everybody united in this mission is absolutely essential. The bigger risk is to stay insular and try to do this in a vacuum. We aren’t going to make the progress we need that way.
There are many different kinds of ops teams ranging from solos to gargantuan teams in some companies. Members of CLOC vary accordingly. How does CLOC plan to serve the needs of such a diverse set of organizations and the people who work in them?
We’ve been doing that already, running programs that focus on foundational elements of legal operations, others focused on more advanced elements, and others that cover the highest level of sophistication in what we do. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. We have to remember to continue serving those who are just getting started on the journey.
One of the most popular presentations I’ve ever done for CLOC was called “Zero to Hero” and was focused on building a legal ops program from scratch. I presented it with Steve Harmon several times a few years back. We need to keep doing things like that for some time into the future to make sure we’re bringing everybody onto the bus and helping them get to the next level. We have to be inclusive and consider people at all stages of the development process.
Step forward a year or two. When you look back, is there an accomplishment as president of CLOC that would make you the proudest?
We have a lot of cool things in the works, so it’s tough to pick one. There are two percolating in my head. One, that our members rebound quickly from the pandemic and make significant progress enhancing their legal departments’ ability to improve service to their clients at scale. Two, that as a united ecosystem, we will have made significant progress making our industry more representative, equitable and inclusive. A lot of things go into those two broad-stroke advances, but those will be high-level indicators of our success. I want to see us make a lot of progress in both.
Interestingly, law firms are now focusing on ops themselves. They’re building captive ALSPs or partnering with them. They have a trade group, the Legal Value Network. What do you think about law firms’ efforts to morph into what seems almost like an alternative to themselves?
It’s a huge sign of progress that they’re understanding the need to do that. They’re figuring out how to leverage other components of the ecosystem that can enhance their overall service offering and set them up for a brighter future in the modern era. A lot of law firms are starting to get it. A lot still have a long way to go, but we are slowly but surely seeing progress in the law firm world and it’s a wonderful thing.
What do you say to a young lawyer considering a legal ops career who asks what kind of expertise or experience he or she should lean into?
There are a variety of skill sets that come into play in a legal ops role. It’s helpful to have a legal background, and it’s helpful to have a business background. If you have both, that’s great. But expertise in finance, process, technology, and other things are helpful as well. You can come at a legal ops role from any of those angles and be successful as long as you have the right mindset. It requires a curious mind, a thirst for learning, and a willingness to go out of your comfort zone to learn other skillsets that go into the role. Those are the essential traits for a successful legal operations professional.
FOCUS ON DIVERSITY
As the new president of CLOC, and the head of ops at Intel, Mike Haven is highly focused on what he calls “showing up” for things that matter. One of those is diversity, equity and inclusion.
CLOC recently released its 2021 State of the Industry survey, which revealed a major shift in priorities for corporate law departments and their ops teams. Diversity, which had not been high on the priority list in prior surveys, rose all the way to the top of the list from fifth out of seven priorities in 2020 – above automating legal process and implementing new technology. Here’s what Haven says:
“It’s top of mind for everybody right now. We’ve come out of a period that really hit everyone hard in a lot of different ways. One has been the blatant and horrible racial injustices that litter our society. We need to make sure that we’re doing our part in solving that problem.”
Intel’s vice president and general counsel, Steve Rodgers, made a splash in late 2019 when he trumpeted his frustration with the snail’s pace progress on diversity in the legal profession and called for a Moore’s Law for diversity.
“That sluggish progress is not enough for our profession, and it certainly is not enough for Intel – where we pride ourselves on taking bold risks to achieve rapid progress,” he wrote. “In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore penned Moore’s Law, a prediction of constant, momentous improvement that has become the driving force for progress in the computer industry. Our industry’s belief in our ability to achieve the core promise of Gordon’s prediction has driven thousands of engineers and scientists to produce ever-faster computer chips. We believe that driving real progress in the legal profession’s diversity requires taking risk and being audacious, in the best spirit of Moore’s Law.”
Haven agrees that there is still much work to be done at Intel and beyond. “We are ensuring that the partners we work with are focused on it, and we’re ensuring that we’re focused on it internally. But we have to go broader than that as an industry. We have to work on the pipeline. We have to make legal a more compelling and attractive industry for young, diverse professionals to come into. Those are huge challenges, and CLOC is in a position to make a difference. Those matters of the heart came through as a priority in our survey, and they will be top of mind for the board and our leadership moving forward into CLOC 3.0.”