GenAI and Beyond: 10 Top Takeaways from CLOC 2024

Gen AI remained a key topic at this year’s legal operations conference, but with a sharper focus on getting started – and getting results!

By Hal Marcus, Esq., VP Product Marketing, Evisort

The corporate legal operations community showed up in full force and in good spirits for the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) annual conference in Las Vegas, some 2300 strong. 

The new board president, Jenn McCarron, taking the reins from Mike Haven of Intel, heralded the advent of Legal Ops 3.0. Having attended the first CLOC conference, the latest, and quite a few in between, I can tell you that some things have changed, while some have stayed much the same. Here are my top ten observations and musings from the 2024 CLOC General Institute (CGI).

1. Awareness of generative AI has grown, but demand for information remains high

Last year, any mention of a large language model (LLM) was still novel enough to prompt some attendees to seek definitions from their favorite search engine – which, today, is probably powered by an LLM. This year, discussions of LLM fine-tuning, retrieval augmented generation (RAG), prompt engineering, hallucinations, guardrails, and more seemed to pass by with few quizzical looks. Either we’re all getting a lot more knowledgeable, or we’re all becoming better actors. I’m betting on the former. 

Nevertheless, sessions focused on generative AI still garnered major interest. At Evisort, we were thrilled at the turnout for “Change My View: Gen AI is Overrated.” Hundreds came to hear Jenn McCarron and Mike Haven share their insights with our CEO Jerry Ting, drawing extensively on their experiences implementing Evisort, respectively, at Netflix and Intel.

2. Adoption is now the top AI issue, even above data privacy 

At industry events this past year, we’re accustomed to receiving lots of questions about how LLMs get trained, how data is cleansed before used in prompts, how data is stored and accessed. This year at CGI, we received far more questions about how to achieve gen AI adoption from legal teams, what are the most effective use cases, and how to make custom models with gen AI to identify any information you want to track in your agreements. It feels like legal ops has turned a corner on gen AI, and teams are both eager and encouraged to start implementing valuable use cases. Of course, data privacy, guardrails, and reliability remain critical issues, but legal ops professionals seem to know these will all be assessed as part of any responsible procurement process. The pressing need is to get started, and not be left behind as gen AI brings unprecedented value to corporate legal and across the business.

3. Contract-related products continue to dominate the exhibit hall  

Whether because agreement processes still command the lion’s share of in-house counsel’s bandwidth and budget, or because the advent of generative AI has made it easy for new “GPT-wrappers” to get seed money, CLOC exhibitors seemed to still feature more products around contracting than any other legal discipline. Negotiation, drafting, review, redlining, and workflow management are seeing no reduction in attention and investment. Whether true innovation is on the rise is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s safe to say that we will continue to see plenty of focus on contract technologies. 

4. Contract analytics is (gradually) eclipsing CLM 

More and more legal and legal ops professionals are recognizing the limited value they’ve received from traditional CLMs. Comments I heard include: “It’s just a big repository; we don’t do anything with it.” “It helps us get a signature, but that’s about it.” What they’re looking for is insights, answers to pressing questions that arise from business teams, and true visibility into the agreements that comprise their businesses. When we explain that legal ops doesn’t necessarily need to deploy a new CLM – that AI-native contract analytics can connect with and deliver enriched contract data to virtually any enterprise system (CRMs, P2Ps, ERPs, and even other CLMs) – eyes tend to light up. 

5. Legal ops leaders are hungry for tangible use cases and success stories around gen AI 

While some may look at generative AI as a solution in search of a problem, many legal and legal ops leaders – with strong encouragement from senior management – are making creative use of generative AI to help solve a range of problems. Case in point: At “Journey to Live in Generative AI,” Tom Orrison, Senior Director of Legal Operations at Microsoft showed off the work his team and their partners at EY have developed around Copilot to help automate the drafting of various kinds of documents for Microsoft's legal team. The results were truly intriguing, so much so that many in the audience stayed well past the scheduled session end for an extended Q&A, even though free drinks awaited in the exhibit hall. 

6. Consolidation and partnerships create opportunity, and raise questions 

On day one of CLOC, a couple of vendor consolidation announcements – one in CLM and one in eDiscovery – led to some buzz, prompting attendees to ask the requisite questions that inevitably emerge: Will the acquirer continue to invest in the acquired roadmap, services, and support? Will the UX and backend be harmonized or stay separate products? Does the acquisition truly fill a gap for the acquirer and, if so, what new opportunities will arise from that?For Evisort’s part, related questions emerged from our announcement on day two of our new partnership with Icertis. That two long standing competitors were forming an alliance struck some as curious, others as intriguing. What opportunities will emerge from the integration of Icertis’ widely-used enterprise platform with Evisort’s powerful, customizable AI? Hopefully more of the kinds of benefits experienced today by our current joint customer, Microsoft.

7. Users are beginning to expect conversational UIs to be the gateway to everything

As a longstanding Star Trek fan (call me a Trekker or Trekkie, I‘m good with either), I’ve long anticipated a future state of conversational user interfaces, simply talking to your computer to get what you need. So I’m enjoying seeing users interact with their contracts by simply asking questions (even though they are usually still typing on a keyboard – in Scotty’s words, “How quaint!”). Conversational experiences that let you ask questions about a contract have opened the minds of legal and legal ops professionals, and raised their expectations. Some are now wondering when they can simply ask products to perform a wide range of contract analysis functions. Speaking for Evisort, I can say that more such functionality is in development, even though new capabilities can be expected to be released incrementally over time. (Hey, even Scotty had to sandbag a bit to maintain his reputation as a miracle worker.)

8. Legal teams need confidence in AI-generated answers 

When engaging with people in the exhibit hall, I frequently handed over the keyboard, encouraging them to ask our platform any question they could think of about a given contract. This went over surprisingly well; they came to realize that this is not just about asking canned questions for demo purposes, but a whole new way to find any answer about your agreements, in simple natural language. What went over even better, though? Showing that the answers contain links to the specific parts of the contract from which the answer is derived. After a year of high-profile stories about litigators relying to their detriment on nonexistent case law cooked up by ChatGPT, attorneys are determined to be able to validate AI-generated info, so they can act with confidence.

9. Sessions conveying successful results were especially well-received

I was gratified by the standing-room-only turnout for Evisort’s joint session with Harbor, Mitratech, and NetApp entitled “Analytics to Action: Unlocking Contract Data to Accelerate the Speed of Business,” but was far more pleased by the feedback we heard from attendees afterward and well into the evening. What seems to have been so appreciated was that we discussed NetApp’s actual, successful deployment of the Evisort Contract Intelligence Platform, connected with Mitratech’s TAP-based workflows, under the auspices of Jeff Marple and the expert consultants at Harbor.Most importantly, Shelle Elzer of NetApp documented the $2.5 million savings this project has yielded to date. Numerous audience members thanked us for the session, which they told us stood out against certain other, more theoretical, discussions – proving again that nothing succeeds like success.

10. There’s still no substitute for ad hoc conversation at the bar

Despite some valuable sessions and countless conversations at our booth, the most interesting ideas I heard were at the end of the day over a drink or two. Slack and Discord servers be damned, there’s nothing like chatting with innovation leaders and legal ops professionals at a bar: The chance meeting, the unexpected conversation, the unlikely combination of individuals, no slide decks or demos in sight. Creative use cases emerged, fresh ideas flowed, new friendships formed. 

This is ultimately why we show up at CLOC CGI, and why I’m already looking forward to next year. See you there. If you get to the bar first, order me an Old-Fashioned.

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