|Archer Daniels Midland: 'Legal Ops Isn't Just One Program, It's In Our DNA'|
|by Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team|
When David Cambria slashed his outside counsel from 700 firms worldwide to less than 25 – in just over 12 months – the legal industry applauded his efforts to “regain control” over his law firms. What many failed to recognize were the significant internal changes Cambria implemented to build a team of sophisticated buyers driven by common goals.
Making Convergence Stick
“In convergence, it’s not always as much about the law firms as it is ourselves,” says Cambria, global director of operations – law, compliance and government relations at Archer Daniels Midland.
“There’s nothing magic about the number of firms,” says Cambria. “Convergence is about the alignment of incentives and expectations. It’s making a precise decision about where to invest time and resources to foster relationships and partnerships for the long term.”
The ADM Law Firm Alliance (nicknamed ALFA), made up of approximately 20 preferred-provider law firms, is more than just a smaller pool. It helps to create an environment between Cambria’s team and outside counsel that allows the parties on both sides of the equation to tackle difficult discussions around cost structures, service delivery and quality of work from a place built on mutual trust – based on the expectation and understanding there will be a long-standing relationship, Cambria says.
Cambria joined ADM in December 2013, about six months after General Counsel D. Cameron Findlay came on board. The two met in 2003 when Cambria was a legal department consultant for Huron Legal and Findlay was general counsel at Aon and a client. Findlay later hired Cambria at Aon, where Cambria served as one of the first dedicated legal ops executives in the industry.
In his COO position at ADM, Cambria evaluates not only the value of his outside law firms, but the value his own department creates and preserves for the corporation.
“During these processes, oftentimes you look at yourself first,” Cambia explains. “You ask, ‘What are the things we do as an organization that encourages the behavior of our firms? Do I, in my position, allow anyone and everyone to hire a law firm? Do we have different levels of sophisticated buyers within our own department? Do we understand the terms of business required to have legal coverage? Where are we lacking within our whole firm, and can those needs be address in a holistic way?’
“Once we understood how many firms we were working with, we worked to change our internal dynamic and reorganized ourselves,” Cambria says. New processes include updated rules of engagement and guidelines as to who can buy legal services – with all outside counsel hires vetted by the law department.
“We are more sophisticated buyers and can better issue spot to give work to law firms in areas where we don't have in-house expertise,” Cambria says. Only by asking the hard questions of when and why to bring in outside lawyers, knowing the level of difficulty of a matter, and having a deep understanding of the capabilities of your own team, can in-house lawyers align their outside counsels’ value to the business goals of the organization.
“It’s most important to make a list of potential firms who aren’t simply ‘good firms,’” Cambria says, “but that meet certain criteria, such as understanding the partnership desired, having a specific expertise, geographic scope, ability to perform bespoke services for a unique matter, or that offer commodity or other specialty services needed. Then weave together that set of firms into a program that address all of those concerns at once.”
That doesn’t mean ADM won’t hire firms outside of the panel – but it does mean that when the legal department does hire outside the panel, the decision has gone through a rigorous and informed process that ensures they’re making the right decisions for the right reasons.
Building Smooth Business Interfaces
Another area to receive an operations process overhaul under Cambria’s watch was the legal department’s internal systems, such as matter management and electronic billing. While traditional systems tend to focus on discrete activities or pieces of data, Cambria wanted information to help him better understand the risks facing the company. This required evaluating the process-driven interactions his lawyers have with the business on a day-to-day basis.
“We implemented a program that focuses on the way people work and interact with the law department, so that we could build better initiatives around the work and information that the law department touches on a regular basis to be more efficient for ADM as a whole.”
One example is ADM’s innovative approach to non-disclosure agreements, a typically low-risk and low-value item for its legal department. However, for ADM professionals outside of the department requesting NDAs, the matter is highly important.
By implementing a new tech tool, anyone in the organization can click a few buttons, fill out an input form and – if it passes certain criteria – auto-generate an NDA which can be completed via electronic signature. The legal department automatically records the NDA in the system without a lawyer having to stop and manually input information.
“The ebb and flow of legal assisting the business occurs because we built a process, rules and a system for that to happen without much lawyer intervention,” Cambria says. “The business person has what they need to move an initiative forward, and the lawyers are happy because the questions answered and information provided met a certain threshold of risk tolerance that says ‘This is run-of-the-mill, go for it!’ versus ‘No, let’s stop and talk.’ Our lawyers can then focus on things that drive strategy and larger value.
“By taking the time upfront to think about efficient processes and create workflows for items that are repeatable and scalable, the amount of time required to complete those tasks is a fraction of what it had been. Plus, people are no longer repeating the same mistakes over and over,” Cambria says.
“We, as humans and lawyers, underestimate the time, energy and effort to address those concerns, but taken in totality, it becomes really a big number. With a few hours of time to plan upfront, we took hundreds of hours of effort out of what the law department was doing and refocused that energy on better strategizing for the business.
“It’s the same with convergence,” he adds. “When you have how many conversations with how many law firms around prospective waivers, engagement letters, or billing guidelines – all things that have no value driving forward the legal function – all of a sudden we’re talking about real time spent.
“It’s all about building scope and scale to the things that are necessary but don't help drive to a better place or drive business initiatives in an efficient way.”
Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of Disputes
A third initiative implemented under Cambria’s watch includes tracking shipping risks and contract unit claims in its Ag Services business unit – a $45-billion business unit of ADM.
Using the same technology platform utilized for NDAs, the legal department is able to track shipping disputes from the moment they arise, regardless of where they originate or the nuances of each.
“Many disputes didn’t make it to the legal department’s attention until much further down the road than we would have liked,” Cambria says. “We took a really good existing internal structure from one of our business units and are able to address on a global basis reoccurring shipping risks and contract issues through a unified intake process. Our strategy is now about decelerating claims before they make it to all-out litigation – a part-and-parcel partnership between the business and the legal department.”
The key for Cambria’s team was to address and trace in a repeatable fashion the natural way people work, i.e., an email with a link taking them straight to the system, which records analytics ADM lawyers uses to drive better outcomes.
“That’s why our in-house lawyers came on board – to provide value to the business. As lawyers, we’re trained to do that, and that’s what gives us satisfaction in our careers.”
The Value-Add of Legal Ops
Cambria finds the recent media and industry focus on the legal ops executive function gratifying.
“A lot of us spent a number of years talking about the importance of the legal ops role,” Cambria says. “To see it take hold and grow this way is absolutely thrilling. But, it’s important to know that much of this work has been happening for the past 20 years. What’s new is people’s insight into the ways we can scale what we’re doing to meet the needs of the business.”
“Individual initiatives are important,” says Cambria. “But they must be part of a broader function. A lot of projects are done myopically – you see people saying, ‘Let me tell you about this great program!’ So what? How is it part of the overall DNA of your organization and what you’re trying to achieve?”
The initiatives that Cambria has undertaken at ADM have improved processes within the legal department – but those initiatives have created value far beyond the direct benefits those improvements have had on the bottom line.
“Numbers are measurable – people like them,” Cambria says of ADM’s convergence, and other programs, and the tangible metrics that result. “But, they don't drive cost effectiveness and efficiencies. They happen to be a nice by-product, but ultimately it’s better relationships – in-house and outside – that lead to a clearer understanding of scope of work and the value ADM places on it, and to higher-quality, more efficient work by our law firms.
“Whether it’s convergence, analytics, matter management or eDiscovery – all of those practices apply the same core principles and questions. ‘What I doing to preserve or create value?’ That intention should drive everything.”
David Cambria is the Director of Global Operations – Law, Compliance and Government Relations for Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) where he works with the General Counsel to develop and lead a “best-in-class” law department operations function with a primary focus on aligning the department’s day-to-day operations with the business strategy.
In 2013, David was named by the National Law Journal as one of the Top 50 Legal Business Trailblazers & Pioneers. He is chairman of the advisory board for the Annual Law Department Operations Survey, where he also serves as editor and contributor. He received his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Dayton, School of Law.
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|The Complex Future of Lawyer Skills|
|by Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team|
What new skills will lawyers need in the coming decades? This is, rightly, a hot question of late, and for good reason. Law firms are questioning the preparedness of new hires; law schools are revamping stale curricula; clients are dismissing the usefulness of young lawyers. The profession is struggling to re-orient to an unknown future.
But, it’s not the right question. It presumes we all share a common path and a common objective — that there is some set of new skills that all lawyers will need. Is that true? What if only some lawyers need to learn new and different skills? Who are those lawyers? What do they need to learn?
The evolution of an industry is usually marked by increased specialization. The legal profession has traditionally been specialized by practice area. A lawyer commits to a practice area, and the way to become successful is to become an expert in that area, or if not expert, well versed in drafting, discovery, due diligence and maybe a dozen other things that support the work of a client counselor and rainmaker within that unique practice area. As a profession, we are topic specialists, not task specialists.
More lawyers are starting to specialize in specific “tasks,” with the rise of legal operations advancing the shift.
This means that we will have fewer unified skill sets for legal professionals to develop. And, legal professionals won’t always be lawyers – or at least, they won’t always be practicing law. More of the work to deliver legal services will take place in the design phase. Professionals in operations, technology, process management and other fields will make the work of practicing lawyers dramatically more scalable and efficient.
So, what will lawyer skills look like in 20 years? The best way to assess that is to look at the green shoots we see starting to grow, and evaluate them against the tall trees that may fall – or those that may stand for another century.
Some old timber is still standing strong. Take appellate lawyers. The law will change; facts will change; technology will change. But, the work won’t really change. An intellectually gifted appellate lawyer will likely be as valuable to her client in 2035 as she is now – even if she’s technology-challenged. That’s not where the key value is created. We could make a list of similar roles where the skill set is likely to stay put. But the foundations in other areas are shifting, and that’s where the conversation gets interesting. Let’s take an example from legal operations management, one I’ll draw from my own experience.
At Novus Law, our legal professionals turn mountains of documents and other materials into useful information for our clients and their law firms by analyzing complex fact patterns in connection with various kinds of legal work. It’s the lawyer’s work of sorting out what happened in a complicated case or transaction. The contemporary twist, of course, is that “what really happened” is generally buried in 50,000 or 500,000 or a million documents.
How do we do this differently than it was done a decade or two ago? We manage operations and quality the same way a pharmaceutical or electronics manufacturer would. Our teams build narratives out of raw evidence using a process map with over 800 steps and 90 sub processes. The whole system is subject to a quality management program audited under the same standards as a world-class manufacturing quality management program. Beyond the legal professionals, there’s a technology team that builds and enhances the tech environment in which all of this work gets done.
What does this mean for lawyers’ skills? Every day in our firm, legal professionals are regularly doing some or all of the following things:
• Designing and building online collaboration portals to manage projects and deliver
work product to clients.
• Creating and administering skills assessments to build the matter-specific knowledge
attorneys use to prepare work product.
• Running an integrated system of quantitative analytics, each with its own detailed
checklist, to regularly measure and manage quality.
• Measuring, analyzing improving and controlling work processes to reduce variation,
eliminate error-prone steps and increase efficiencies.
• Using the science of statistics to permit clients and their law firms to audit and verify
the accuracy and quality of our work product.
• Using the science of collective intelligence, sometimes known as the wisdom of
crowds,to ensure that everyone who works on a matter, clients, their law firms and
our team, all participate in creating work product for a piece of litigation or the fact
base for a transaction.
This is legal operations come fully alive. It is not law firm life. It is more science than art; it is intensely process-driven. It is not specialized by practice area; statistical process control works the same whether it’s a consumer class action suit, asbestos litigation or an IP dispute. But it is specialized by task.
And, it requires totally different skills than what an appellate lawyer needs. Will an appellate lawyer ever need these skills? No more than a cardiologist needs to know how to manufacture a pacemaker. She needs to know how to use it and how to place it in a patient. She doesn’t need to know how to make it, and she never will.
This kind of legal operations work is growing – through the advent of legal operations specialists inside large companies, the emergence of process mapping and operations management by legal services providers, and the beginnings of process consciousness in a few influential law firms.
Legal operations can make a great contribution to the quality of legal practice. When faced with a big problem, lawyers start by working the file, reading the documents, doing the legal research. This is a mistake.
We now see the emergence of legal organizations that approach big problems the way an architect might: Step back. Assess the problem. Think about its contours. Design a systematic way of surmounting the problem and create a detailed action plan. Only then do they work on the problem according to a set plan, with checkpoints, quality oversight mechanisms, and goals firmly established from the start.
To return to my earlier point: Will all lawyers need to do this? No. Will the legal profession need thousands of people who can do this? Yes.
This doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about the future of legal skills, but it gets us to the right question: What does the total future landscape of legal skills look like, and who is going to need what? That’s a question that requires a map for an answer, not a simple checklist.
Follow Novus Law on Twitter @NovusLawLLC.
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|What the Jobs Are: New Tech and Client Needs Create a New Field for Legal Operations|
|by William Henderson, Indiana University Maurer School of Law|
The ABA Journal recently published an article written by Indiana University law professor William Henderson about the legal operations movement and its impact on how law is practiced. Henderson identifies legal operations as not just a function within corporate legal departments but rather a “multidisciplinary field where professionals collaborate to design and build systems to manage legal problems."
In his article, Henderson breaks down three different players within the legal operations spectrum: in-house Head of Legal Operations Connie Brenton, NetApp, Inc., 2013 ACC Value Champion, and her success in digital transaction management; law firm Bryan Cave, which runs a ‘practice economic group’ dedicated to using technology to automate complex legal processes; and legal “toolmaker" kCura, whose data storage technology outranks all other e-discovery providers. The common thread Henderson identifies to tie each of these to the legal operations space is that their core business and ultimate goal is to make lawyers more productive.
Henderson notes, “A lawyer might say to a client: ‘Better, faster and cheaper—pick two.’ A legal operations professional figures out ways to get all three. To date, the greatest advances in legal operations have occurred in legal departments, yet the same inventive methods and mindsets are cropping up in traditional law firms and sophisticated “New Law” companies funded by non lawyer investors.”
Read the full ABA Journal October 2015 cover story here.
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|ACC Value Champion AIG to Launch Data-Driven Legal Ops Business in 2016|
|by Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team|
With the goal to establish industry-wide, competitive pricing and efficiency models for legal services, American International Group, Inc. (AIG), announced the launch of a new company in a surprise statement at the recent Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) 2015 Annual Meeting in Boston.
Aaron Katzel, AIG’s global head of legal operations, announced the formation of The Legal Operations Company, LLC to a packed room at a panel event, which also featured 2015 ACC Value Champions Melissa Anderson, litigation technology services manager, legal affairs, at 3M; Aine Lyons, vice president and deputy general counsel, worldwide legal operations at VMware, Inc.; and Terrence Thompson, senior projects and contract manager at Yazaki North America, Inc. Katzel’s unexpected revelation was prompted by moderator Catherine J. Moynihan, senior director of legal management services for the ACC, who asked each speaker to close the session by highlighting their “next big steps” to boost value within each organizations’ legal department.
“The legal services marketplace… hasn’t been terribly good about delivering information about what the right costs for services are and the right value is for the services that are being delivered,” said Katzel, Bloomberg BNA reports.
In response, the insurance giant will harness information from the more than $2 billion it spends in legal services per year, which includes partnerships with more than 1,500 law firms and analysis by 80 AIG professionals staffed in its in-house legal operations team.
Companies will pay an undisclosed fee for access to AIG’s data.
Read more about the Legal Operations Company, which will launch in January 2016, at Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business blog here.
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|Roundup of Activities within the ACC Legal Ops Section|
|by Catherine J. Moynihan, ACC|
A few new groups are sprouting within the ACC Legal Ops section, including regional groups in the mid-Atlantic and North Carolina, as well as a group for legal ops professionals based in Europe. In addition, two new industry groups have formed – for health care manufacturing (pharmaceuticals and medical devices) and insurance companies. Both industry groups have begun by benchmarking on the legal ops role and structure, i.e. comparing org charts, headcount, functions, etc. Check out the Regional Groups and Interest Groups tabs on the ACC Legal Ops website for more information.
The functional Interest Groups that formed over the summer are gaining momentum. Here are some highlights:
• The External Resource Management group is getting ready to send out a survey to attain insight on how fellow members measure performance of law firms and other legal service providers, as well as value-added services. The aim is to provide recommended scorecards and benchmarking data on use of value-added services.
• The Internal Resource Management group is focusing first on creating “Legal Ops in a Box” – a set of resources for those establishing legal ops functions for the first time. Next step will be to tailor it to GC’s: “So You Want To Install Legal Ops Function?”
• The Metrics & Analysis interest group has a number of running projects: 1) creating a metrics directory; 2) creating new task codes as building blocks for AFAs (and better benchmarking); and 3) gaining insight on law firms’ internal metrics, with an eye toward influencing them to be more client-focused. ACC has also provided some “Dos and Don’ts” to avoid anti-trust issues – with plenty of room to maneuver for buyers of legal services.
• The Tools & Technology group has been working on a technology directory, to be followed by some guidance on buying technology services.
• The Strategic Planning team has scheduled the first ever ACC Legal Ops section exclusive webinar for November 18 at 2:00pm ET. Tune in to listen to the perspectives of your fellow members and the opportunity to ask questions. Click here to register.
It's also time to start planning the 2nd annual ACC Legal Ops conference, which will be held in Chicago in June 2016 (more details to follow). Thank you to the many members who have volunteered for the planning committee – we will be in touch soon! If you’d like to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As ever, keep in touch and keep an eye on the ACC Legal Ops Member Forum, the Career Center (a new position was posted last week) and the News & Announcements page.
Catherine J. Moynihan is Senior Director of Legal Management Services for the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). She directs the ACC Legal Operations Section and the ACC Value Challenge, providing resources, education, networking and advocacy to advance the law department function and the value of legal spending.
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|Not a member of ACC Legal Ops? Join now!|
Join now to get access to our top-notch conference materials, participate in any of the Interest Groups, and use the online Forum
for ad hoc benchmarking and referrals. The ACC Legal Ops section is
active throughout the year, adding resources and providing webinars
on topics of interest to legal operations professionals.
For more information, visit www.acc.com/legalops or contact LawDepartmentOps@acc.com.
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|The Legal Ops Observer is devoted to reporting on issues important to
the members of the ACC Legal Ops section—from the challenges they face,
to best practices that work, to how members effectively implement
innovation within their individual companies and define the future of
legal ops across the industry. Follow the ACC on Twitter at @ACCinhouse #ACCLegalOps.|