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December 2016
BMO Builds Data-Driven Rankings Tool to Deepen Law Firm Relationships
By: Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team. Follow on Twitter @NovusLawLLC.

When given the opportunity to tout their expertise, lawyers can be notoriously wordy. And, when asked to distinguish among outside counsel, in-house lawyers often find themselves submerged in marketing literature and pedigrees, or turning to long-standing relationships rather than objective metrics to validate their law firm partnerships. 

At BMO Financial Group, Bindu Cudjoe and Carla Goldstein eschewed long, narrative RFPs in favor of an online tool designed to equitably rate prospective and current law firms on a custom scale. 

“The narrative RFPs would come back to us with a lot of subjective self-promotion, which wasn’t conducive to comparing firm to firm,” says Goldstein, Associate General Counsel, director of strategic initiatives at BMO Financial Group. 

After an initial cull of all possible outside firms provided by the legal department and the business, BMO sent out approximately 300 RFIs (out of 1000 possible firms) focused on five categories that align with the overall goals of the organization and what values BMO expects their law firms to exhibit: 

  • Rates (with an emphasis on valued-based billing and alternative pricing structures);
  • Resources (with an emphasis on alternative staffing and sourcing models for engagements that are cost-efficient, including opportunities to partner with third-party service providers);
  • Innovation (with an emphasis on technology, project management, process efficiency and the delivery of legal services outside of traditional norms);
  • Diversity
  • Banking Relationship (relating to the law firm’s banking relationship with BMO)

“We began with the assumption that the firms receiving our RFI provide quality legal services,” Goldstein says. “To avoid the narrative responses, we came up with objective questions to obtain the necessary information to score the firms in each of the five categories. We created an on-line questionnaire and each law firm’s answers flowed into our electronic decision tool. The decision tool has embedded equations that incorporate the ratings, scales, and weightings for each of the categories. A total score and a score for each category were calculated for each law firm.” 

Led by Goldstein (who launched the project with SeyfarthLean Consulting before joining BMO permanently) and Cudjoe, BMO’s deputy general counsel & chief administrative officer, the legal department set a threshold for a law firm’s total score to be eligible to be invited to the Preferred Panel. This ensured that the Preferred Panel of law firms will exhibit the characteristics of a strong partner firm. Although they did not share the exact numbers with the firms, when they met with some of the firms they did communicate in which categories the firm well and in which there were opportunities for improvement. 

“We had meaningful conversations to give our firms a clear message as to how they can and should deliver services to us,” Goldstein says. Because all of the data came from the law firms themselves, both the annual reviews and internal conversations with BMO’s in-house lawyers and business professionals about the firms chosen – and why – were well-received and productive, she adds. 

“There was still a huge amount of change management, but nobody could come back and say, ‘You picked your favorite buddy down the block.’ We picked our panel from the exact data supplied by the law firms and rated them in the objective model.” 

The organization made its first round of cuts in 2014, which only incorporated law firms that delivered services paid for by the bank. In 2015, they expanded the list of overall Preferred Panel of law firms to under 200 firms to include the law firms that handle matters paid for by a customer of the bank. 

At that time, BMO established a Main Panel of law firms that perform a variety of work over a large geographic footprint, along with 12 Specialty Panels for matters requiring particular expertise. While the bank’s internal businesses are given a PDF list of firms for each Panel, its lawyers use an interactive tool to aid in selecting the best firm from the Panels for different engagements. 

“There’s no magic to the panel selection tool,” Goldstein says. “It’s deciding what is important to your organization and then digging down deep into the compiled data.” BMO has begun updating the survey in partnership with SeyfarthLean Consulting to fine tune the selection criteria for 2017 as technology grows in importance and value-based billing becomes more commonplace among firms.  

“The tool is customizable,” says Cudjoe. “As our program evolves and we get to know our law firms better, we’re able to create more aligned relationships – not less – as some worried.” 

“Our firms understand where we want to go; they appreciate an objective basis for why they are a terrific partner and have a clear understanding as to why they are valuable to us,” she says. “We have, in a very transparent way, told our law firms what we value. It’s become less about entertainment and more about the value-add services in addition to the traditional legal services they can provide to our legal group.”

The process also differs from a traditional call for RFPs in its speediness to enable BMO to make a decision about a firm. BMO had a law firm tell them that they never received a decision about a Panel selection so quickly – it only took five days to score and inform the firm from the time BMO received the firm’s information. 

“The beautiful thing is through the questions we ask, we are making clear to our law firms what is important to us, and we know it’s just as important for the law firms to receive prompt results about our assessment,” Cudjoe says. 

In addition to the annual reviews – which include a relationship partner within each firm who does not work on BMO matters and is committed to strengthening the firm’s collaboration with BMO – the legal department embraces regular real-time feedback.

The more frequent candid conversations have empowered BMO’s in-house lawyers, Goldstein says. “We can hold [the law firm’s] feet to the fire a bit if they’re not responding the way they think they should be, as well as let the law firm know when they have done something goes beyond our expectations. We can make an immediate phone call and not wait for an annual review.” 

In return, the duo asked their law firms what the bank can do to eliminate challenges and boost efficiency. “They often have a hard time telling us,” Goldstein acknowledges. “They don’t feel comfortable letting us know, but that can be detrimental to the relationship. We’ve found that our firms really do appreciate honest conversations – the good and the bad.”

Overall, the process has, more often than not, objectively validated the legal department’s faith in their law firm choices – creating a nice nexus between the scores and reality, Cudjoe notes. “This tool – as one part of a multi-faceted program for outside counsel – has allowed us to deepen the relationships between our lawyers and the law firms and gives everyone a better understanding how to best work together for the success of BMO.”

Bindu Cudjoe is Deputy General Counsel & Chief Administrative Officer for the Legal and Compliance Group of BMO Financial Group.  Before joining BMO in 2012, Ms. Cudjoe was a partner in McMillan LLP’s Financial Services Group and worked at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and the Ontario Securities Commission.  She has been an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. She’s a graduate of the University of Calgary, Faculty of Management and obtained her law degree from the University of Toronto.

Ms. Cudjoe is a frequent presenter at industry conferences and external events. Her personal and professional contributions have garnered her many honours. Most recently, Bindu was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession for 2nada’s leading lawyers under 40 and the SABA Legal Excellence Award presented by the South Asian Bar Association.

Carla Goldstein is Associate General Counsel and Director of Strategic Initiatives for BMO Financial Group. Carla oversees the strategy and implementation of BMO’s Legal Excellence Program, which includes its outside counsel program.

Based in Chicago, Carla works with the bank’s attorneys and outside counsel to drive innovative delivery models for legal services, including the use of technology, and pricing models not based on the billable hour. Carla brings a unique combination of experience as a corporate lawyer, a qualified project manager, a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and a founder of Seyfarth Shaw’s SeyfarthLean Program team.

Prior to joining BMO in 2013, Carla was Chief Strategic Innovations Officer of SeyfarthLean Consulting and its parent Seyfarth Shaw. She holds an MBA in Business from the Kellogg School of Management and obtained her law degree from Northwestern University. Carla is frequently invited to speak at business and educational events on innovation. Her work in this area has garnered the 2015 First Chair Award and awards for the bank, including the 2016 Canadian Corporate Counsel Association Innovation Award and the 2015 Association of Corporate Counsel Value Champion Award.  

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Value Plus Services - Part IV in the Continuing Series of Articles from "Unless You Ask - A Guide for Law Departments to Get More From External Relationships"
By: D. Casey Flaherty, former inside counsel and founder of Procertas, a legal operations consultancy

Law firms are usually required to translate abstract legal insights into concrete deliverables like contracts and motions. The value is in the insight. But much of the labor—and the cost and the waste—is bound up in the translation. A law firm that excels at legal insights does not necessarily excel at legal service delivery. 

Clients should be concerned with legal service delivery because it affects outcomes—quality, cost, and speed—especially over the long term. Clients should talk to their firms about legal service delivery because firms are highly responsive to client priorities. Clients are the urgency driver. 

Everyone suffers from urgency bias, the preferencing of the immediate over the important. But the temperament of lawyers and the structure of law firms are particularly focused on the present—this project, this matter, this month, this year. Clients can exacerbate this tendency by only discussing the now—this motion, this contract, this rate, this invoice. Or clients can counterbalance short termism by insisting that some attention be paid to the long term. What clients cannot do is abdicate their role. Silence will be taken as assent to the status quo. 

Clients are not satisfied with the status quo. Surveys indicate widespread dissatisfaction. Attempts to find the root cause of that dissatisfaction uncover that, overall, clients remain content with the expertise of their external lawyers. It is the lack of innovation and the attendant cost of service delivery that is the source of client frustration. Clients have tried to address this frustration mostly through talking to firms about costs, primarily in the form of discounts. This approach has not sufficiently modified behavior. With people and pricing in place, process offers the most levers to drive continuous improvement. Addressing process requires actually addressing process. 

Very few clients engage in dialogue with their firms about how legal services are delivered. Even fewer try to deliberately weave continuous improvement into the fabric of the relationship. The legal market will be healthier if this changes. 

For more on the reasoning behind value enablement, see the Why section. 

Step 1: Questions 

To improve legal service delivery, law firms should be doing more to leverage their legal expertise through process and technology. The problem is that while clients are relatively comfortable assessing legal expertise, we lack the tools to assess the quality and utilization of the systems supporting that expertise, like project management, knowledge management, staffing, and analytics. Except we don’t. The tools for vetting legal expertise and value-enabling process/technology are fundamentally the same: ask good questions as a prelude to good conversations. When it comes to process and technology, we are simply not accustomed to inquiring and discussing. 

The lawyer-selection process is instructive. It is far from an exact science. We use quantitative proxies where available—years practicing, similar cases/deals handled, appearances before a particular court. We rely on interviews to get a better sense of candidates. When we can, we speak to peers with personal experience working with the lawyer. And then when we find a lawyer we like, we stick with her not only because the vetting process is inexact but because there are genuine advantages to incumbency. We now have a track record. And a lawyer becomes more effective as she becomes acclimated to our priorities, protocols, personalities, and pain points. 

Vetting value enablement—i.e., looking at the process and technology that support legal expertise—is similar. We use standard questions and quantitative proxies as the foundation for constructive conversations. And if the relationship progresses properly, our law firms improve over time. That the vetting process is inexact does not make it any less useful. 

Before moving on, however, we should pause and repeat advice that kicked off this volume: 

You should be asking your external providers to get demonstrably better. Stripped to its most basic, you should always be able to identify how your primary providers are measurably improving their delivery of legal services to you. You should have credible evidence—descriptions and metrics—of their process improvements and innovation. 

While this compilation will go deep into potential methodologies for starting and structuring such conversations, do not get distracted by the details or paralyzed by a compulsion to develop a comprehensive approach. If you can’t answer the question, “What evidence do we have that our primary providers are measurably improving their delivery of legal services to us?” ask them for some. Then ask again in six months. Repeat. 

If nothing else, have your primary firms respond to the basic request, “Please provide some evidence that you are measurably improving the delivery of legal services to us.” Then talk to them about what they submit. Then schedule a time to revisit and discuss the progress made. Quarterly business reviews, annual performance reviews, or the annual rite of firms submitting rate-increase requests are all good opportunities to introduce and follow-up on such issues. 

If you want to offer more guidance, you can use this volume not only as resource but also as a reference, “We are interested in engaging in structured dialogue about where and how you are improving the delivery of legal services to us. Following the Unless You Ask playbook from the ACC Legal Ops Section, please provide us by [DATE] with an overview and metrics of how you have recently improved and are currently improving the way you leverage legal expertise through process and technology.” 

Likewise, you can use the availability of this volume to get more specific without getting more detailed by selecting categories and placing parameters around what is submitted, “We are interested in engaging in structured dialogue about where and how you are improving the delivery of legal services to us. Following the Unless You Ask playbook from the ACC Legal Ops Section, please provide us by [DATE] a primer—one page each with supporting metrics and documentation—on your staffing, project management, and use of data/analytics.” 

Or you can send them a request-for-information (RFI) type questionnaire. The Appendix collects all the questions from each category presented in this volume. Like the categories themselves, the questions are a menu—you do not need to use them all. The questions are also generic. You can, and often should, tailor your questions to the types of matters being handled by the subject firm(s). Because the categories are porous and only offered for organizational coherence, the questions overlap in some instances. Finally, the questions are deliberately repetitive—they are consistent in form from one category to the next. 

The categories contained in this volume are not exhaustive. Below is a list of model questions that can be modified to assist you in crafting inquiries for whatever category you devise. The questions are driven by a few interlocking considerations that are intended to get past puffery. This is not advertising copy. You are after concrete answers tied to measurable improvements in legal service delivery to you. 

Puffery. Every firms seems to be full of seasoned, client-centric experts dedicated to delivering superior results, incredible value, and unparalleled client service via process-driven, team-oriented, cross-functional collaboration that results in efficacy, efficiency, and client satisfaction. And they’ve got the awards to prove it. That’s great. But it offers little informational value. Lawyers are dexterous with words but evidence speaks louder. 

Concrete. The firm needs to tell you what they are doing. It is even better if they show you. Descriptions of processes and technology can be supplemented with process maps, reports, and screen shots. In many instances, the firm should be able to point to actual work they’ve done for you and how the process/technology played a role. 

Measurable. Not everything that can be measured is meaningful. Not everything that is meaningful can be measured. But even where the improvements are more qualitative than quantitative, you can usually use proxies to provide a generally accurate, if not precise, picture that service delivery has improved. At the very least, usage statistics can reveal whether the initiative is real or vaporware. In short, the firm should be able to define success and identify indicators thereof. 

Legal Service Delivery. Firms do spend money on technology upgrades. But the value to you of their investment in docking stations for their open-office plan or the new video system for their conference rooms are not self-evident. The burden is on the firm to link the investment to your legal outcomes, speed, and cost. 

To You. Firms do innovate. But the innovations do not always scale. The firm may have invested in a new platform your lawyers don’t use or innovated in an area that has no impact on your work. 18 Copyright © 2016 Association of Corporate Counsel, All rights reserved. 

Some generic, exemplar questions: 

  1. Define [X] from the firm’s perspective. 
  2. Detail firm’s [X] practices and platforms that affect the work firm handles for client. 
  3. Explain how firm’s [X] practices fit into the workflow of the attorneys handling client’s matters. 
  4. Summarize the respective role of attorneys and allied professionals (i.e., staff) in both utilizing and updating firm’s [X] systems. 
  5. Provide any available, applicable process maps that cover firm’s [X] practices or that indicate how [X] plays a role in firm delivering legal services to client. 
  6. Identify recent documents (or parts of recent documents) firm sent to, or filed on behalf of, client that have their genesis in the firm’s [X] practices. 
  7. Specify how much and to whom firm awards billable credit for [X] activities.
  8. Report whatever statistics are available with respect to firm’s applicable [X] practices:
  9. Volume of material contained in [X] platforms: 
  • Frequency/volume of access to [X] platforms
  • Percentage of lawyers/staff who access [X] platforms  
  • Frequency/volume of updates to [X] platforms 
  • Percentage of lawyers/staff who update [X] platforms 
  • Average time per lawyer recorded for [X] activities 
  • Any other useful, available statistics re [X] activities
Additional questions to consider include: 
  1. Outline [X] projects you are currently working on (with timeline of start and finish) and projects you have completed in the last three years that improve the firm’s delivery of legal services to client. For completed projects, provide whatever measurements are available on usage and improvement. For current projects, explain what measurements will be available on usage and improvement. Specify what success looks like and what its indicators will be.     
  2. Describe [X] projects that firm has done for other clients that could be used as models for a [X] project that would improve firm’s delivery of legal services to client.                                                                                       
  3. Include any additional information that you consider important/useful for client to have in order to understand how [X] is integrated into firm’s delivery of legal services to clients.                                                                                                                           

These types of questions can be used in conjunction with an RFP or convergence initiative to vet new providers or consolidate existing providers. These types of questions can also be incorporated into an existing structured dialogue, such as a QBR, annual performance review, or annual rate review. These types of questions can also stand on their own—i.e., a new law department initiative to prompt and sustain conversations with external providers. 

Step 2: Interviews

In some cases, questions and answers will be sufficient to get a proper dialogue going. For your primary providers, however, we recommend an intermediate step: an interview. 

Just as you would interview outside counsel to get sense of their legal expertise and philosophical approach, you can interview them and their team to get a sense of how they augment that expertise and implement that philosophy with process and technology. Interviews can be conducted remotely (e.g., screenshare), in person (e.g., when they come to your office), or onsite. Time permitting, you should interview a few attorneys actually doing your work—i.e., the ones recording the most hours on your matters—as well as the firm’s subject matter experts in the area of emphasis like billing hygiene, project management, etc. 

The answers to the questions already asked and answered serve as your foundation. You will therefore have the information necessary to conduct a targeted interview with your front-line attorneys, such as, “The firm states it uses X platform, please show it to me, tell me how and how often you use it, and provide some examples where you have used it on our matters.” Once you have gone through the specifics, you can also be broad. Ask them where, when, and how frequently the process improvement plays a role in the work they do for you. Ask them not only how valuable specific process improvements are but also how valuable they could be. Towards that latter point, ask them about potential process improvement that would augment their handling of your matters. 

Then ask the same questions of whomever the firm has put in charge of the area—e.g., a CIO, COO, CKO, Director of Client Value, Pricing Director, or Innovation Partner. There are likely people at the firm, especially the leads in specific categories, bursting with ideas that the firm has not given them the resources to implement. The distance between their ideas and the firm realities is a good data point for trying to understand where the firm stands. This knowing-doing gap will also help identify potential next steps in the subsequent phase of the process (i.e., structured dialogue). 

No firm will be perfect. But you are likely to find a high degree of variance with a depressingly large percentage of firms clustered on the poor end of the spectrum in many categories. That variance will not just be interfirm, it will be intrafirm. 

The idea that sizeable law firms do not innovate is not quite accurate. There is a fair amount of innovation across the legal spectrum, including in BigLaw. Rather, the larger the firm, the harder the time they have scaling innovations. You might have one practice group that is genuinely offering an innovative delivery model. But this fact has almost zero informational value if you are considering giving work to a separate practice group. The inconsistency from practice group to practice group, and even from lawyer to lawyer, is one reason interviews of primary providers can prove so important. You really should understand how your lawyers are handling your work. 

In addition, the difference between a firm or practice group that excels at service delivery and one that does not will not necessarily be reflected by dollars invested in advanced technology. 

 There are vast graveyards of expensive tools that were purchased but never rendered effective because of the lack of complementary investment in time, training, and process redesign. Conversely, a group of dedicated legal professionals can substantially improve their service delivery with some time, attention, and sticky notes followed by the commitment and discipline to actually modify behavior. 

If you find that your firm excels in a certain category, fantastic. You have other categories to talk to them about. Plus, you have a benchmark against which to compare your other firms. If, like most firms, they are behind, don’t despair. The interview is only the first conversation. 

Step 3: Structured Dialogue 

If your external lawyers are bad at lawyering, get new lawyers. If your external lawyers are bad at process and technology, give them an opportunity to improve. Don’t demand great answers the first time you ask about project management, knowledge management, analytics, etc. Demand better answers the second time you ask. Don’t demand that they fix everything immediately. Demand, however, that they always be improving at something. Don’t underestimate the aggregate impact of marginal gains. 

When you have identified deficiencies, set priorities and work together on one or two well-defined projects every six months. Establish milestones and embed metrics in the improvement initiative. Do after-action reviews asking how much improvement the investment yielded and what lessons are to be learned. Apply those lessons to the next project, or the next phase of the same project. Repeat. After a few years, the firm will have made substantial upgrades in delivering legal services to you, and you will have woven continuous improvement into the fabric of the relationship. 

While you will likely have ideas about how services should be delivered—especially because you will be benchmarking your primary providers against each other—you should still ask your firms to propose improvement initiatives, as well as timelines and the metrics by which those initiatives should be judged. There is a huge amount of latent potential for innovation inside law firms, including allied professionals, young lawyers, and under-resourced team leads.

 Most initiatives will not fit neatly into one category or another. Such overlap is expected. Category boundaries are porous and used only for organizational convenience. Knowledge management, project management, etc. are not ends in themselves. But they are means worthy of attention.

They are also specialties. Modern legal services is a team sport. Expecting your law firms to deliver legal services in an interdisciplinary manner—i.e., legal expertise augmented by process and technology—often demands multidisciplinary teams. The allied professionals in charge of areas like knowledge and project management are essential stakeholders who have much to contribute to structured dialogue on improved service delivery. They should be in the room and part of the conversation. You don’t need the relationship partner repeatedly reminding you that the firm has really, really good lawyers who work extraordinarily hard and care deeply. Of course they do, or they wouldn’t be your firm. You still need the people close to, and with expertise in, the labor-intensive portions of the work to provide insight as to how it can be done better. 

These data-driven conversations should be a true dialogue with a 360-degree perspective. That means that you should be open to suggestions about improvements and innovations of your own. Maybe one reason that outside counsel is slow to turn around particular types of documents is that you are slow to get them the internal company reports on which those documents rely. Maybe one reason that outside counsel appears to have poor billing hygiene is that while you are quick to initiate matters via email, you are less expedient in opening new matters for them to bill against. Maybe the law firm approaching your work the way it does is an unintended consequence of your billing guidelines. 

There should be something in it for exceptional firms. Their commitment to the relationship should be rewarded with more work or more profit (e.g., higher realizations) on existing work. There is so much slack in the legal market—time that is not recorded, preemptively reduced by the law firm, or cut by clients—that there is ample room to simultaneously improve quality, reduce costs, and increase profitability. This is not a zero-sum game. The most sustainable outcomes are win-win. 

In the next issue, we are going to run through the 3 steps in the following categories: 

  • Knowledge Management 
  • Process and Project Management 
  • Data/Analytics 
  • Paper Intensity 
  • Expert Systems 
  • Technology Training 
  • Staffing 
  • Firm-Defined Categories 

This article is a serialized from Version 1.0 of the complete Unless You Ask playbook, which is available for download here. It is a project of the ACC Legal Ops External Resource Management Interest Group.

Casey Flaherty is the founder of the legal tech consultancy Procertas. Mr. Flaherty is a former inside and outside counsel and is the creator of the Service Delivery Review, a strategic-sourcing methodology focused on how well law firms utilize process and technology to deliver legal services. Mr. Flaherty consults, writes, and speaks on strategic sourcing, legal operations, technology, process improvement, and metrics. Due to his efforts to create and promote a more rigorous, empirically-oriented approach to quality and spend management, he has been, inter alia, featured in The Washington Post, named an ABA Legal Rebel, and selected as one of the Fastcase 50. Mr. Flaherty also serves on the advisory board of NextLaw Labs. 

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2016 Legal Ops Trends - A View From ACC Annual Meeting
By: Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team. Follow on Twitter @NovusLawLLC.

The legal operations movement continues to grow, with large organizations increasingly hiring legal department professionals to improve efficiency and reduce outside legal costs through streamlined processes and advanced technologies. 

The rise of legal operations executives - especially those with concrete support and clear directives from general counsel - allows in-house attorneys to focus on more substantive legal work and strategically align the goals and actions of corporate counsel to the parent organization. 

The Power of Two - CLOs and Legal COOs

The seismic impact of a strong CLO-COO relationship was apparent this fall during a roundtable discussion at the ACC Annual Meeting in San Francisco where two dozen general counsel and their heads of legal ops gathered to discuss emerging models in law department management. Moderated by VMWare, Inc. Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, World Wide Legal Operations Aine Lyons, attendees included ACC Value Champions and an array of global companies focused on innovative action, including Hewlett Packard Enterprises (2016), Bank of America (2013), Medtronic, Minimally Invasive Therapies Group (2012) and The Home Depot, Inc. (2012). 

One big takeaway: dedicated investments in time and resources into legal ops initiatives are imperative to long-term success. That commitment is most keenly felt in the general counsel and legal operations professional working relationship, according to attendees. That crucial support is a cornerstone of effective change management.

"No tool will solve a process problem, and no process will be solved if your people don't buy into the change the process targets," said Lyons. 

Backed by the vision of Dawn Smith, senior vice president, chief legal officer, chief compliance officer and secretary, Lyons successfully oversees metrics compilation and analysis (such as benchmarking matters against the legal department's own portfolio), offsite events, resource allocation, technology implementation and budget planning - all of which give Smith access to the C-Suite in return, as corporate leaders recognize the valuable contribution of the legal department to the organization's overall business strategies. 

The group also discussed a greater willingness to partner with non-traditional legal service providers, including QuisLex, Axiom, ThinkSmart, Brightflag and Discovia, together with or in lieu of outside law firms. However, many stressed the critical importance of a positive experience straight-out-the-gate (which may underline the industry's lingering resistance to change despite the economic climate). Others mandated that outside firms must work with preferred service providers as one way to manage successful collaborations amid predictions that more big players will emerge in the non-firm firm landscape. 

Flat fees have moved from optional to preferred, with many legal departments relying on alternative arrangements to meaningfully drive the reduction of costs - with one global banking attendee citing 85 percent of litigation billed as a fixed expense. Participants also noted that while many lawyers, both in-house and outside, tend to overvalue certain types of work, they often find themselves working to adjust perceptions through structured communication to better align matter management with business risks. By doing so, in-house teams are increasingly invited to join business meetings and have the time to do so thanks to more value-focused and streamlined workloads. 

Improving Costs, Predictability & Outcomes - ACC Value Champions Keep Innovating 

Past and present ACC Value Champions gathered the evening before the ACC Annual Meeting to celebrate the newest honor recipients and share best practices and new initiatives, while also having a frank discussion on pain points and challenges within the industry. (Over the past six years, more than 70 law departments, firms, and legal service providers have been recognized for their transformative management programs and collaborations.)

The session kicked-off with an open discussion on process improvement as corporate legal departments strive to streamline workflows to accommodate shrinking budgets. At Aon (2016), the legal department worked with law firm partners to map processes and create win-win solutions to accommodate tighter budgets. Chief Operating Officer for the Law Department Audrey Rubin also highlighted the corporation's commitment to driving internal innovation through a global rotation program designed to incubate projects, meet spikes in demand for specialized exptertise, and improve legal team engagement. 

Others noted that the best starter initiatives are easy to implement and user-friendly, such as standardizing contracts and NDAs. Comparative talents models are also on the rise, with many sharing methods for Lean Six Sigma training; creation of remote hub-spoke legal centers in lower cost locations; and greater hiring of new law school grads. 

While energizing and educating their peers across the industry, these Champs have clearly also found inspiration in each other – with some forging new partnerships to develop and launch even more successful operations. BMO Financial Group (2015) and FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (2015) have each partnered with global legal services firm Novus Law LLC (2015 with FFIC) to tailor award-winning initiatives and proven practices to create greater impacts and continue to evolve the legal departments into high-valued strategic leaders within their businesses. 

For additional coverage: 

At the 2016 Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting, a panel titled “Getting Lean and Mean: Transforming Legal Operations” discussed some methods, tactics and strategies legal departments could explore to advance their operations, according to Jeff McCoy for Thomson Reuters' Legal Current. 

Legal departments are transforming through technology, implementing best practices and continually analyzing the work being performed by lawyers, paralegals and support staff, as well as by their outside counsel, McCoy reports. 

Read the full report here: Getting Lean and Mean: Transforming Legal Operations - ACC 2016 Panel 

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Roundup of Activities within the ACC Legal Ops Section
By: Catherine J. Moynihan, ACC

It’s been a busy fall!  Here are some of the highlights.

Informative webcasts were hosted by several of the Interest Groups and a few sponsors. If you missed any, log-in to the ACC Legal Ops Resources page to catch up on:

  • Reverse Auctions for AFAs – there are two: one focusing on litigation matters, and the other on deals (GSK)
  • Metrics for AFAs – 4 ACC Value Champions explained how they measure the success of their AFA pricing, without using shadow billing (3M, Bank of America, Medtronic, United Technologies)
  • Project Management in eDiscovery and Litigation Support (Exterro, with participation from Allergan, Caterpillar and Southwest Airlines) 
  • Legal Spend Management through bill review (QuisLex, with Legal Solutions)

There were two virtual roundtables on diversity in law firms. 

The Metrics & Analytics Interest Group hosted a discussion centered on the new ABA Model Diversity Survey.

  • All participants indicated that they intend to adopt it, and those with the most mature law firm diversity metrics programs recommended focusing on collecting the data in the last section of the survey: staffing, hours and fees on the client’s matters.
  • Consensus was easily reached to recommend adoption of the model survey to the ACC Legal Operations membership, not only because “what gets measured gets managed,” but also to amass comparable data for benchmarking over time. 

The External Resources Management Interest Group then hosted a virtual roundtable dubbed, “Beyond Metrics; Tactics to Encourage & Support Law Firm Diversity & Inclusion.”  Collaboration and positive reinforcement were the themes of the day. Here are some of the constructive approaches members shared:

  • Give diverse groups of junior attorneys special projects, or invite them to special events, involving high exposure to the client.
  • Pilot hiring or sharing diverse summer interns or summer associates.
  • Feedback is key. Tell panel law firms how they stack up on various diversity metrics (several use a scorecard), and also ask for feedback on how the client can better promote diversity. 
  • It helps to partner with firms on their diversity initiatives and on internal programs focused on diversity-related legal/business issues.
  • Participate in the NAMWOLF conference to connect with women and minority owned law firms – often strong on value too.
  • Honor the firms that are most successful in improving/promoting diversity and inclusion – take advantage of their competitive natures!
  • GC involvement works wonders – both in emphasizing the importance of diversity efforts, and rewarding those who succeed with access to the GC. 

A joint ACC - P3 working group is making good progress in defining a better process and creating a toolkit for scoping and pricing matters, and building budgets using well-defined tasks (new standard codes to follow). Stay tuned – we will be looking for others to pilot this methodology for firm-client alignment and scope management in the new year. 

And here are some ongoing activities – jump on in!

  • Planning for the 2017 ACC Legal Operations Conference June 4-6 is underway (save the dates!), and there’s still time to get involved in selecting among the excellent program submissions, shaping the agenda, organizing programs or serving as faculty. If you would like to get involved, email
  • The Technology and Tools Interest Group invites you to participate in a survey to share evaluations of the applications we use and produce a Technology User Directory for direct peer-to-peer connections to discuss technology solutions.  There’s still time to contribute evaluations of the applications in your department and receive the report/directory. To complete the survey, click HERE
  • In 2017 we are launching a series of product/service demonstration webcasts, giving you a convenient way to check out new solutions along with peer legal ops pros from other companies.  Register here to check out BusyLamp’s cloud-based legal management platform on January 18th. Demos of Kim Technologies and IntraSpexion are in the works – let us know about others you’d like to see.  

And of course, all members are welcome to participate in the Interest Groups, sharing knowledge about the many functions within corporate legal operations – from internal resources management to strategic planning. Just let us know where you want to plug in and we will add you to the cadence calls. 

At any time, let us know how the ACC Legal Ops section can help your needs by emailing

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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Now Accepting Nominations - ACC Value Champions

The ACC Value Champions, a component of the ACC Value Challenge, is a unique recognition program that identifies, celebrates and publicizes successful law department value initiatives and collaborations between clients and their legal service providers. Each year ACC identifies and highlights individuals who have utilized value-focused management practices to cut spending, improve predictability and achieve better outcomes. The Champions come from varied industries and departments/firms of many sizes, and have utilized an array of value levers. The profiles presented here tell the stories of how the "Champs" results were achieved - ideas and inspiration for others.

ACC Value Champions have made great strides in controlling legal costs and have shared their value practices and tools to inspire others. By cutting costs, improving predictability and achieving better outcomes, you could be recognized as an ACC Value Champion.

Nominations are due by January 31, 2017. Submit yours here!

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Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page

There is a lot of terrific information floating by in the social media stream - often too much for busy legal ops professionals to consume. The ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements tab tracks the best items to keep you well informed. 

While you wrap up business for the year, you may enjoy these great stories with thoughtful advice from Peter Krakaur, Principal at PK Consulting.

Plus this story from Corporate Counsel examining whether the needs are outpacing the ability of law departments to service them. 

We are adding more hand-picked items all the time - be sure to bookmark or subscribe to

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Not a Member of ACC Legal Ops? Join Now!

Join now to get access to resources, participate in any of the Interest Groups, and use the online Member Forum for ad hoc benchmarking and referrals. The ACC Legal Ops section is active throughout the year, adding resources, conducting benchmarking studies, and providing webinars by legal operations professionals, for legal ops professionals.

For more information, visit or contact


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Contributing Editor:

BMO Builds Data-Driven Rankings Tool to Deepen Law Firm Relationships
Value Plus Services - Part IV in the Continuing Series of Articles from "Unless You Ask - A Guide for Law Departments to Get More From External Relationships"
2016 Legal Ops Trends - A View From ACC Annual Meeting
Roundup of Activities within the ACC Legal Ops Section
Now Accepting Nominations - ACC Value Champions
Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page
Not a Member of ACC Legal Ops? Join Now!
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