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Why One Legal Ops Group Is Keeping It Small – Above the Law

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Why One Legal Ops Group Is Keeping It Small – Above the Law

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Headshot – Andrew Dick

Andrew Dick

While the CLOC Global Institute continues to fill casino event centers on the Las Vegas Strip each May, a newer organization is staying small by design. 

The Legal Innovators Network, or LINK, has been facilitating invite-only gatherings of senior legal ops professionals for almost two years. 

There is no cost to join the group, and events typically are just a half-day — a structure that allows members to attend multiple conferences throughout the year. 

The aim, its co-founder said, is to create the sort of freewheeling discussions among peers common at events in the early days of the profession.

Last week, the group hosted its fourth and fifth “LINK Live” gatherings of 2023, simultaneously in New York and San Francisco. 

At the New York event, held at a Manhattan boutique hotel, about 40 attendees sat around a conference table, and on stools, and lined the walls next to Ramones posters, as they shared in-depth anecdotes about the processes and products their organizations were using. 

Liz Lugones of UpLevel Ops led the discussion, which focused on the “ever-changing environment” of the legal department, and how legal operations can better support general counsel in transitioning from being a company adviser to being a strategic business partner. 

After the panel, we caught up with LINK’s co-founder, Andrew Dick, to discuss the organization’s origins, goals, and outlook. (This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.) 

ATL: To start, can you walk us through your background and the LINK origin story? 

AD: Sure, as for my background, I used to be a big firm lawyer, and then I went into startups. I’ve been in three startups, all in the legal space, since then — generally, all things content-related.

I felt like the design and creative side of the law — everything from the platforms to the websites — the energy was just so stale. So everything I’ve done in a broad sense has been focused on how to do that better and how to invigorate that. 

I’m the founder of another legal startup called Luminate — it’s kind of like the Netflix of legal content, if you will. It’s very heavily focused on video and high-production-value video, because it’s not that expensive these days; you can make video look really good without much effort.

[LINK co-founder] Steph Corey and I came together to do a virtual conference on legal operations, and we had a really successful virtual event. We started doing different content initiatives together. 

I’d also just gone to my first CLOC. It’s such an interesting and special community because folks are so collaborative, and everyone is so generous with their time and their ideas. They’re excited, it’s a new space, and there’s so much to learn. I really felt that energy at CLOC.

During the pandemic, I thought: What if we create something that’s a complement to CLOC, but is more virtual. 

I said, you know: CLOC’s going to be on hold for a year, at least. Let’s fill that void with a virtual community. We can do webinars, we can do other types of gatherings. I have an idea for how sponsors can participate.

She said: Such a great idea. It reminds me of the old days of CLOC when it used to be a much smaller group. It was much more senior level folks sitting in a room and just sharing best practices and talking. 

We wanted to recreate that momentum, that energy, and that sense of intimacy with LINK.

We’re now co-founders of LINK, and it’s going on two years. The first year was basically all virtual, doing a monthly gathering. I was bringing a video production element to it; it wasn’t just Zoom.

During that time, we built up the brand, we built up a community. It’s now up to 500 people. 

Today the biggest component is events, whether that’s virtual events or in-person events. We have a platform with discussion boards that are active. We just launched a Slack channel. 

So there’s a lot of sharing and resources and things that are exchanged in between events, but the events are something that I think people look forward to. 

And it plugs this gap of something that’s smaller, a shorter amount of time, and easier to partake in than a big conference or an all day event. 

So in your events, you have ways you foster that community energy, right? You keep it small, keep it intimate. I guess that speaks to legal operations in a lot of ways as a profession that’s continually being created?  

Yes, very much so. I think the big events tend to be, you know, lots of sessions, lots of content, lots of very seasoned people sharing views, and then an audience. 

And you know, there’s not as much opportunity, I would say, for that audience to engage with each other outside. There are a million networking opportunities, but it’s fun, it’s social, it’s casual. 

There’s not as much substantive-like workshopping or breakout sessions where you get in groups of five to 10, which, as you can see from the group today, thrives because they all have something to contribute. There’s no hierarchy where someone knows all and then, you know, a little bit less than the next person, a little bit less.

A lot of people know a lot about something — maybe they just did a whole CLM project — but maybe they know nothing about, say, a sophisticated workflow. So they just have a lot to share, a lot to contribute. There’s a lot of energy.

LINK is really about harnessing that energy by putting people together.

So we have small settings, we invite senior-level folks, because we think it’s important that they have a community where they can brainstorm with people who have actually done these things and are experienced.

And we have our sponsors facilitate the breakout discussions as they are oftentimes just as knowledgeable, or have a unique perspective, about the pain points everyone is dealing with.

But even among that group, there’s so much sharing and learning to be had.

I’m also curious: What made you decide to do New York and San Francisco events simultaneously today? 

You know, as you heard me say earlier, I’m not sure what we were thinking. [laughs]

This is the second time we’ve done this. So in April, we did the same thing. We did San Francisco and New York simultaneously. The idea was kind of like “coast to coast.”

I guess we thought there were some economies of scale in terms of the marketing — that you could market one event or you can have one date, you know, two events. 

Going forward it will always be one event on a given day. But we can certainly do multiple events in a given month. 

It depends on interest, it depends on the audience, it depends on sponsorship. But we’d like to do as many as we can, because every time we do them, people walk away saying: That was so great. That was awesome. Wasn’t expecting that. What a cool opportunity to, you know, learn and meet people.

Thanks again for taking the time. Before we head out, do you have any parting thoughts? 

No parting thoughts … [laughs] Well, I’d say that, even though today’s event is a half a day and we understand that people aren’t paying to be here, we still want to make it something special. 

So we still invest significantly in these events. We host at nice venues like, you know, the Moxy, where we are today. 

There’s going to be a huge spread that’s coming out later. It’s our way of helping to create community. 

Everyone enjoys a nice opportunity to indulge and network. So there’s a whole social component that will take place after the content and programming finishes up, and I think that’s a nice balance. 

It’s a way to balance content and learning and workshopping and actually getting to know people.

Regarding the social piece, a lot of people aren’t comfortable in that environment, but it’s amazing how much more comfortable they are once they’ve sat around a table together — everyone will know each other by the end of the workshopping portion. 

It’s different from an event that’s purely social, where it’s hard to network and meet new people. 

So we hope this format and this flow helps facilitate relationship building, because these people can benefit so much from getting to know each other. 


Jeremy Barker is the director of content marketing for Breaking Media. Feel free to email him with questions or comments and to connect on LinkedIn

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