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Redefining Legal Operations

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Ari Kaplan speaks with Connie Brenton and Jeff Franke, the founders of, a

membership community providing legal operations and other professionals with resources and

events including an inaugural conference in October.

Ari Kaplan

You have served as the VP of Legal for NetApp for over a decade and also founded and served

as the first CEO of CLOC. How did your career move from legal in the traditional practice sense

to focus on legal operations as a unique discipline?

Connie Brenton

I was very fortunate to have started early on in the evolution of the legal operations role. I had

a fantastic general counsel, who saw the bigger picture and looked at legal as a competitive

advantage. He truly understood the value of running legal like a business. I stepped into that

role with a team of 23 almost 20 years ago. The role was unique and at that point, it was almost

unheard of to have a team of that size. I was also active in the legal process outsourcing space

and visited India to find LPO partners. We built a legal operations team that bridged all of the

different groups within the company into one optimized team and produced a true general

counsel/legal operations partnership to help provide value beyond the strict delivery of legal


Ari Kaplan

You are also a co-founder of CLOC and like Connie have practiced in a legal department while

leading legal operations. How does combine those two elements?

Jeff Franke

At its core, legal operations is really about delivering legal services. I spent about 10 years

practicing law and received an MBA when I got my JD so I have always focused on the bigger

picture. This function is multidisciplinary and there are three components to it: (1) finding the

right tools to help deliver services; (2) the delivery of those services; and (3) the core elements

of the business, from finance and communication to technology and organizational design. If

you were going to design the perfect person for the most senior role in operations, it would be

somebody who had a JD, an MBA, and a background in IT.

Ari Kaplan

How has legal operations changed since you led the team to formalize it from a book club, as

you've described it in the past, into a global community?

Connie Brenton

There have been some big advancements and the number of professionals in the role has

expanded exponentially. When we started the book club, there were probably 150 executives

who labeled themselves as legal operations leaders. Now, the vast majority of legal

departments in the Fortune 500 have a legal operations position. The progression of the role

itself has been slower and one of the reasons we started CLOC was to define the role. As the

role of the general counsel evolves, the remit of the legal operations executive changes, so we

have seen quite a bit of change recently, with those responsibilities now including strategy, HR,

and technology.

Jeff Franke

People still ask: “What is legal operations?” It is unusual because almost all of the roles within a

corporation are defined while this one is not because: (1) the initial role of the general counsel

was as a risk manager and there was no legal operations support; (2) the GC evolved into a

business partner as legal departments focused on helping the business move forward; (3) GC's

are now strategic and trusted advisors; and, (4) the ultimate paradigm is the general counsel

who is helping to create a competitive advantage for the business. Those four paradigms result

in four distinct legal operations roles, from tactical, cost-cutting, and efficiency-focused to

supporting and driving strategy. The strategic GC, however, needs a chief of staff, who can

extend the reach of the law department. And the ultimate result is merging the role of

operations with legal, with legal operations woven into the fabric of the general counsel to

deliver legal services, where everyone in the legal department is a legal operations professional.

Connie Brenton

Redefining legal operations is really about helping GCs understand those four paradigms and

the stage in which their legal departments exist to support their growth, as well as explain to

CEOs, CFOs, and COOs the breadth of legal operations.

Ari Kaplan

How do you see’s first conference distinguishing itself from others that focus on

this topic?

Connie Brenton

We will have the entire legal ecosystem in a room together. The conference is

being produced in partnership with the Women's General Counsel Network and LawVision,

which largely supports law firms. In addition, we curate all of the content so that attendees will

leave with additional knowledge that improves their performance and an expanded network to

increase the available resources when people have specific questions. In fact, we are dedicating

the entire afternoon of the first day of the “Running Legal Like a Business Conference” to

personal development.

Jeff Franke

We are also creating a community to both discuss and apply the concepts that help law

departments thrive. We see this as an educational event and also an opportunity to share new

ideas to help drive the profession forward. We created the CLOC Core Competencies or CLOC

12, which is still a great paradigm, but we have also created the Personal Effectiveness Skills

and Traits Competency Model and will provide training around it, as well as on a third model

we will be introducing at the conference. In an ideal world, business and law schools would

already have the content and incorporate it into their curricula.

Ari Kaplan

Where do you see legal operations headed?

Connie Brenton

Legal operations will follow the evolution of the general counsel and align the delivery of legal

services to the creation of a competitive advantage for the business. Law firms are also now

creating their own technology solutions and overhauling the way they are thinking about

delivering services. As alternative legal services providers, law firms, and technology companies

change so do legal operations professionals.

Jeff Franke

Changes in technology, including ChatGPT and the expanded use of automated workflows, will

impact legal operations, as will creative staffing models and ALSPs. Regulators will also

influence this shift because the regulatory environment will become more complex and

increase the relevance of legal. We are even breaking certain services, such as legal project

management, into components and identifying their true value in a process of de-aggregating

and re-aggregating. The evolution of the role of the GC and legal operations, in general, is

largely driven by changes in the law.

*Editor’s Note: This transcript was originally published by the ABA Journal at

Ari Kaplan ( regularly interviews leaders in the legal

industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspectives highlight

transformative change, and introduce new technology at

Listen to his conversation with Connie Brenton and Jeff Franke here:


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