June 2017
Recap of the 2017 ACC Legal Ops Conference
Editor: Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team. Follow us on Twitter @NovusLawLLC

In the third annual ACC Legal Operations conference earlier this month, dedicated legal ops professionals focused on enacting positive change within the legal profession. Reese Arrowsmith, Legal COO for Campbells Soup and chair of the ACC Legal Operations section, set the stage by revealing recently mined HBR data proving strong ROI for the legal ops function. The data shows that savings delivered by corporate legal operations in median-sized corporations amount to more than $2.33M in savings annually on just two spend measures. Arrowsmith noted, "and as a young profession, we have only just begun to gain traction!" This peer-rich event – held over three days – delivered a variety of education modalities for those new to the ops role through sophisticated ops executives at organizations of various sizes. Programs included a boot camp for newbies; workshops and expert-led roundtables; interest groups meetings; and a capstone design thinking workshop. Outside legal service providers – carefully curated by ACC Legal Ops members – were invited to participate in “shark tank” sessions to showcase emerging AI-driven tech.

Arrowsmith moderated a lively roundtable discussion among general counsel, including Catherine Levitt of Astellas Pharma US, Dawn Smith of McAfee and Michael Tucker of Avis Budget Group. Reinforcing the proof of a high return on the investment in legal ops, Tucker pointed out that amid a difficult restructuring (code for layoffs), there was one person he knew he could not afford to lose: his head of legal ops.

“That person was critical for the program and process for which [Avis] won the ACC Value Champion Award,” Tucker told the packed room. “I had spent two years reading every article I could find on legal operations metrics – they are hard to find. There are a lot of stories on cost savings, but not on the impact of metrics.” Tucker’s head of ops quickly unearthed relevant metrics research from outside the industry – along with ways to incorporate those measurements at Avis. “It’s thinking outside of the box and really going out there,” Tucker said. “It’s that kind of innovation.”

When Levitt had the opportunity to hire a new ops professional at Astellas Pharma, she looked for someone willing to stretch the scope of the current position far beyond just financial savings after attending a meeting with forward thinking GCs and their ops executives. “I realized there is so much more that we could be doing,” said Levitt, whose new U.S. head of ops, Elizabeth Jaworski, was quickly promoted to a global role.

While at VMWare Inc., fellow ACC Value Champions Dawn Smith and Aine Lyons (VMWare's deputy general counsel and global head of ops) undertook a strategic transformation. In one facet, they asked their law firms to proactively revalue their services – including through alternative fee structures and re-thinking the methodology by which they compensate their lawyers. “What often distinguishes the best lawyers isn’t skill set - they are all great,” Smith said. “It’s response time,” she added as one example of ways great lawyers set themselves apart for clients.

As the GCs left the dais, optimizing the management of corporate legal departments and innovations in legal service delivery stood out as the big themes throughout the conference. From managing teams to building collaborative relationships with outside providers (and reclaiming control) – the event was designed to empower operations professionals within their own organizations and the industry.

We will briefly review highlights from the conference - from developing a road map for operations, to applying metrics to guide improvements and move beyond cost containment to enacting transformative solutions - all enabled by design thinking.

The Legal Ops Road Map and Disruptive Technology

Borrowing from the Great One (hockey great Wayne Gretsky), a popular first-day session on “skating to where the puck is going” was as much about “sharpening your skates and working on speed,” as about seeing what’s developing in the rink. The discussion initially focused on how legal departments disrupt themselves through strategic planning and transformational projects.

Both Microsoft Corp. and Liberty Mutual Insurance (two very different companies) include technologists and project management, data science and knowledge management professionals in their legal ops skunk works. (Note: Lucy Bassli of Microsoft advocates avoiding the term “non-lawyers,” but frequent use of the term proved how hard it is to break habits.). “You have to make room for innovation,” said Bob Taylor, vice president and senior corporate counsel at Liberty Mutual Insurance. Liberty’s team uses project management and process improvement methodologies to “clean out the attic” of the legal department, he added.

When it comes to evaluating emerging services and technologies, the advice of these forward-leaning legal ops leaders is to have a well-defined process. Here are a few of their tips:

  • Look for products that increase data capture and provide a better user experience.
  • Start small and safely, testing hypotheses before testing a product.
  • Give a variety of stakeholders a chance to see demonstrations of a variety of offerings, which inspires ideas and unearths use cases for new software. Debrief or score the new products methodically.
  • Find willing users early and test prototypes.

“Putting something in their hands causes the ‘ah-ha moments’ about what else can be done with a given technology,” Taylor said when presenting new tech and tools to the legal team.

Reese Arrowsmith shared that he had already stolen Liberty’s idea by scheduling a “Vendor Day” for outside providers to present their services and tech to the legal department. Although he anticipates that some of the services his colleagues at Campbell’s Soup check out can be built rather than bought, it’s important to note that many legal departments fall into the pitfall of avoiding a proper build vs. buy analysis to determine the best course for their organization.

And what about AI? We all have come to understand while it’s not yet fully here, the imperative is to “start capturing as much data as possible.” A strong knowledge management practice is essential for creating structured data, a precedent for using machine learning tools.

Metrics: What to Measure and How to Interpret the Data For Early Ops

The conference faculty had plenty of helpful suggestions for those who are starting from scratch, specifically without a budget or extra headcount to gather data and build dashboards.

Legal ops managers at PG&E and AbbVie shared the complexities and drivers behind their legal department’s recent metrics, as reported by ALM’s Legaltech: Metrics in Motion: Two Ops Managers Share Stories of Analytics Implementations.

In many law departments, the legal function has more regulation complexity and workloads than ever – but headcount and budgets remain flat. “This is a big challenge,” said Sam Ranganathan, senior director of legal operations at AbbVie. Adding to the challenge are often mountains of inaccessible and "dirty" data, said Juanita Luna, Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s director of legal operations – a situation she described as “data rich, insight poor.”

Here are some of their helpful tips:

  • Start with gathering and organizing data on external counsel spend because it’s the most readily available, the cleanest, and as Peter Eilhauer of Elevate Services pointed out, “delivers the ROI [through savings] that underpins what you do in legal ops;”
  • Be patient and consistent. It’s going to take some time to “clean” the data, and to teach users and systems to keep it clean;
  • Establish the Big Five spend metrics: budget vs. actual, inside vs. outside, practice area, average timekeeper rates, and staffing profiles; and
  • To get compliance with clean data-entry requirements, you can add some “shame metrics.”

The session materials are especially rich, providing explanations of technology options for reporting, business intelligence and data analytics service providers, sample dashboards and templates, and suggested methodologies for taking the next step, such as enriching the data by coding and analyzing matters by risk and complexity. 

Metrics: Meaningful Law Department Metrics for Advanced Ops

The primary use case shared by conference faculty to illustrate advanced metrics was contract management, which illustrated how legal departments in the vanguard proceed from 1) utilizing metrics to 2) analytics and onward to artificial intelligence (AI).

How do they differ? Metrics show what has happened, whereas analytics provide insights to answer business questions. Machine learning and AI enable systems to perform tasks that are normally performed by humans, including decision-making.

The materials include several contracting dashboards, illustrating how metrics are used not only for operational management such as volume, cycle time, and iterations; but also risk management manifested by consistency, deviations, and outcomes such as disputes; and partnership shown through data on the interaction between Legal and the business side. 

Digging into contract analytics, the faculty team - Pratik Patel, vice president of legal business solutions at Elevate Services, Inc., AbbVie’s Ranganathan, and Aaron Van Nice, director, legal operations at Baxter Healthcare Corporation - illustrated how “point in process” analytics are used to compare contract terms, facilitating quick adjustments.

In risk analytics, one can hone in on categories such as supply chain, capital structure or physical assets, for example - and, of course, obligations management analytics help legal departments stay on top of not only expirations but also exit strategies, payment, and warranty terms.

The usefulness of machine learning (a form of AI) was demonstrated through a divestiture example, where a huge volume of contracts needed to be organized and reviewed so that notifications to counterparties, renegotiations, and migrations could be tackled. The process the contract reviewers undertook to train the system started with increments of 2,000 documents, initially yielding very low accuracy but moving up to 98 percent accuracy and allowed for a rapid review of over 100K documents. In this case, the estimated savings amounted to USD $500K and 5,000 hours.

When these types of savings compound, the legal department evolves from a cost center to a value-driving partner within the organization.

Caption: Attendees participate in round-table sessions and engage with like-minded peers. 

Beyond Cost Containment

As highlighted by the general counsel keynote panel, ops initiatives go way beyond cost-cutting measures.

To that end, a panel of experts from UnitedLex explained a practical methodology for the “next evolutionary phase” of the legal department. This step immediately follows the effective legal cost management phase and involves “supporting the business in the accomplishment of its goals and objectives by prioritizing legal work based on risk impact and strategic alignment,” according to the panel.

The UnitedLex experts, Nancy Jessen, senior vice president; Heather Jacobson, director; and Nikki Rahimzadeh, senior manager, introduced the topic by highlighting the importance of clearly distinguishing between “efficiency” and “effectiveness.” While efficiency is more cost focused, effectiveness requires strategic engagement and vision. Legal departments must understand that both principles are distinct and ultimately critical to the continued success of the legal department.  Below are four key characteristics inherent within any high performing legal department:

1.  Alignment between cost and value of work performed both within and outside the legal department.

2.  Adoption of an organizational model and structure driven by business needs.

    3.  Use of technology that automates and streamlines legal work.

      4.  Use of managed legal solutions or outsourcing to enable the legal department to focus on highest value work.

      The session speakers then described what they call the Business Impact Framework Process – a process that drives legal department movement into the next evolutionary phase and seeks to ensure that legal departments prioritize their work based on risk assessment and strategic impact.

      The key steps of this process include the following:

      1. Identify and define categories of work;
      2. Define the business impact for each type of work;
      3. Collect and document time allocation through interviews, interactions with leadership and/or workload survey; and
      4. With the information described above, identify areas of opportunity with defensible benefit and prioritize them in a road map.

      To define the legal department’s work categories in Step 1, UnitedLex suggests the following taxonomy:

      • Workflow, intake and matter management;
      • Document/knowledge management;
      • Outside vendor spend and management; and
      • Internal resource optimization.

      Key taxonomy design considerations include:

      • Use of the MECE philosophy (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive)
      • Avoid the use of “Other”
      • Inclusion of the “ability to report” as a key consideration
      • Identification of what information should be known by a selected group of team members
      • Use of the “80/20” rule (also known as the Pareto principle or the law of the vital few, which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes).

      Once categories of work are defined, each type of work should be evaluated based on both its risk potential and strategic alignment in light of the overall company strategy. [Helpful materials can be accessed here.]

      Caption: Attendees participate in one of many hands-on workshops. 

      Getting Lean and Mean: Transformative Solutions

      Simple questions lead to transformative solutions, according to faculty presenters Nancy Brooks, vice president and deputy general counsel at Discover Financial Services and Juanita Luna, director, legal operations at Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

      “Is someone doing legal work outside the law department?”

      That simple, yet provocative, question from her General Counsel prompted Brooks to begin a two-year transformation of the company’s contract management processes, an initiative that led to productivity improvements of 20 percent on a volume of 6,000 contracts in its first year of implementation.

      Brooks' contract management transformation at Discover, along with Luna’s re-engineering of the legal operations function at PG&E, were the focal points of Getting Lean and Mean: Transforming Legal Operations, a session moderated by Tim McNee, executive officer at Integreon. The three legal operations leaders offered insight on where to start and how to prioritize significant levels of organizational change.

      Brooks and the Discover team started with a deep dive into what the contract process actually looked like. The team found that nearly 85 percent of contracts were low- to mid-risk, but the default “one size fits all” approach to contract management provided no talent-to-task alignment. Overkill and inefficiency on low-risk, low-dollar contracts constrained the department’s ability to focus attention on the highest risk contracts. Multiple hand-offs between finance, procurement and law added to contract cycle time. Lack of clear data and consistent processes presented risk concerns in a highly regulated environment.

      The top priority of the Discover transformation became the centralization of all contract management into a newly formed Enterprise Contracts Solutions group that Brooks now leads. This is a team of lawyers and contract administrators (21 full-time employees, 7-8 temporary contract attorneys, and an administrative outsource) that process all contracts and interfaces with operational/regulatory attorneys, risk SMEs and business partners.

      Following the reorganization, the first year was “a year of learning,” Brooks said. “We learned how to track queue size, follow week-by-week data and better manage volume and complexity in real time,” she said. “For Year 2, we were able to get new headcount approved because we finally had good data.” She also noted that the real “acid test” of the new structure came when contract volume unexpectedly leaped from a projected volume of 4,800 to 6,000 in Year 1, and the group still managed to eliminate more than 1,800 hours of contract processing time!

      Luna’s challenge at PG&E was broader. The question she faced was:

      “What is the real value the law department can bring to the business?”

      Multiple systems and platforms, along with outdated work processes, resulted in duplication and repetitive work, hampering the value of the law department in the eyes of the business. Luna recognized that a broad overhaul of department systems was needed and that she had one shot at securing the right level of funding. Her situation demanded a comprehensive view of change.

      Initial action steps focused on a blueprint/mission for future-state operations. Focus groups were used to identify issues and build early engagement among stakeholders, with core questions that included:

      • What do we want/need to run the business of the law department?
      • What does the company expect from us?
      • How well are we managing key resources, notably outside counsel?

      Using the results to help formulate a business case, Luna worked with HBR Consulting to reduce more than 15 different systems into a single integrated platform that provides the sophisticated data analytics and visualization needed to run an effective and contemporary law department.

      Luna noted that the test of success for the revamped operations came when company leadership changed. “We’ve gained a new CEO, GC and deputy GC recently,” she said. “Finally, we have the data in hand to quickly demonstrate how and where our department has made a difference in the business. We were prepared for the new leaders, who have remarked how helpful we have been in their transitions.”

      Beginning with the End (User) In Mind

      The 2017 ACC Legal Operations Conference concluded with a highly interactive and forward-thinking session on applying “design thinking” to the management of legal services.

      The session, called Empathy: The Secret Weapon for Operational Improvement Inside the Legal Department, was led by two representatives from IDEO, an award-winning global design, and innovation firm, which is using design-thinking to reimagine the legal industry.

      The basics of IDEO’s approach to design thinking include People needs, followed by Business needs and then Technology needs. The People process begins with user empathy – a deep understanding of how end-users interact with the products or services a company provides. For legal innovators in law departments, end-users could include internal business clients for the department’s services.

      Presenters Rochael Adranly, IDEO general counsel and legal design lead, and Sean Hewens, senior design lead, brought the empathy process to life, using a simple worksheet that allowed participants to create a solution-defining process for one of the key “pain points” they see in their own law department.

      • Worksheet questions provided animated and thought-provoking discussions. Consider the following: “What are two ways that you could immerse yourself in context and get a perspective on this pain point that is unique or different from your own? (e.g., Could you shadow a colleague? Could you spend a day with the IT team? How about Finance?)”; and,
      • ”What are places you could look for analogous inspiration (positive or negative)? Within another department in your company? At a legal department in a different company? At a company in a totally unrelated industry?”

      Questions like these challenged participants to think differently about how their department’s work may be viewed by others, and how innovative new approaches could be developed and tested.

      The focus on empathy and solution-building provided an upbeat, motivating conference finale.

      To learn more, take a look at the worksheet and give it a try with a colleague or two to get started in your law department.

      Develop Department Relationships Beyond Your GC

      As the conference concluded, a final note to attendees included the sage advice to develop personal brands and relationships within the organization. Do not focus solely at the GC level – but evangelize the entire department to value the important role of the legal operations team (even an army of one), so that when leadership changes occur, there are champions of change throughout the department to support the critical work of legal ops.

      To access all the course materials from the conference, please click here. 

      For more coverage, please see:

      Corporate Counsel: 3 Ways to Sell Your Legal Tech Project to Corporate Management

      Legal Tech News: The ACC Legal Operations conference kicked off with a look at how to deploy and maintain a successful legal operations team.

      Bloomberg BNA:  Lessons Learned From 3M Culling Law Firms (Video)

      Bloomberg BNA: Microsoft's Legal Department is Piloting AI Right Now (Video)

      Legal Tech News:  Think AI Contract Review is Easy? It All Depends on the Training

      Legal Tech News:  Three Corporate Legal Ops Paths, One Goal: Tackling EDiscovery Spend 


      Contributing Reporters: 

      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




      Joe Spratt is a communications and marketing consultant in the legal industry, specializing in business of law. issues. He serves as an ACC program consultant and is a member of the faculty for the ACC's acclaimed Legal Service Management program.




      Jinna Bulava, Esq. (prev. Jinna Pastrana) is a corporate lawyer, with experience in the US and international jurisdictions.  She currently serves as Director of Corporate Membership at the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) where she has also served as Associate General Counsel providing legal advice on global privacy issues and contracts. 


      Rachel M. Zahorsky, Esq. is Director of Marketing at Novus Law LLC, where she is responsible for developing marketing strategies, overseeing internal and external communication, and preparing media content for the firm.  She is a frequent contributor to the ACC Legal Ops newsletter.

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      Legal Ops Boot Camp Delivers Roadmaps for Effective Results
      Catherine J. Moynihan, ACC

      At the recent ACC Legal Ops Conference, an ensemble boot camp faculty delivered on their promise to explain “How to Gain Traction,” providing practical, candid advice.  In a session designed to create a “roadmap for driving the function through the curves,” the new recruits were treated to tips on how to get up to speed on the long list of legal ops competencies: learn from senior corporate leadership, outside counsel, vendors, internal business units (finance, IT, HR, Procurement, etc.), clients, and fellow ACC Legal Ops members. They also saw real examples of how to do a needs analysis (in this case, how to identify “trapped capacity”) and an impact analysis on implementing a new tool. 

      Budget Control

      On the all-important topic of financial management, the recommended first steps are to get your arms around the budget. Know what’s in it and what’s not.This includes invoice and budget approvals and pulling the spend data together. Beyond these basic steps, great advice from the boot camp faculty included: 

      • “Learn about the organization’s culture surrounding the budget; is it inviolable, or can you exceed it with justification?”
      • Review the budget with stakeholders regularly. Why? According to a Huron Legal survey, “On average, companies reviewing budgets every month show 50 percent lower external legal spend as a percent of company revenue compared to those who never review their budgets.”


      Collaborate with Outside Partners

      The vendor management seminar featured a lively discussion about “multi-sourcing” – sending the work to the right resource, internally and externally (check out the ACC Guide to Value-Based Staffing for more on that topic). The recommended steps to get on top of vendor management included:

      • Document the current state, organizational goals, and the guidance that is given to outside counsel;
      • Identify gaps, issues and the makeup of service providers in terms of cost, efficiency, and capabilities;
      • Prioritize by producing long-term strategies and short-term action plans; and
      • Converge down to a panel of preferred law firms – be sure to implement a solid process to choose the right firms for your organization – to get to deeper relationships and more leverage.

      Getting Tech Right

      The path to maturity in technology management moves from manual process into deployed technology, where integration begins, and then to an advanced stage where your department enjoys automated workflows and data-driven decisions. As in the other sections, this instruction put a lot of emphasis on first assessing goals and priorities (of users as well as management) and the current state. Like in most any area of legal ops, you’re always leading something new, so the great advice here is:

      "Always keep communicating with your users …

      even when you’re still trying to figure out what you’re doing!”

      The materials for this session featured a key tool for the legal ops toolbox - a project charter - and some great advice to partner with technology vendors from first pitch through the deployment.

      The faculty for the boot camp, along with a few other member volunteers, collaborated on a Maturity Model for the Operations of a Legal Department that serves as a great benchmarking resource on the topics covered at the conference, and others such as knowledge, records, document and change management, litigation support and more.

      Keep an eye on the News & Announcements page for webcasts to learn more about all key areas of responsibility and how to advance through stages of the ACC Legal Ops Maturity Model.

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      Top Things to Consider When Doing Strategic Planning for Legal
      Jinna Bulava, ACC

      At another engaging session at the 2017 ACC Legal Operations Conference, Aine Lyons, vice president and deputy general counsel, worldwide legal operations of VMware; Aaron Van Nice, director, legal operations at Baxter Healthcare; and Bob Taylor, vice president, senior counsel at Liberty Mutual, discussed key elements to consider when building a strategic plan for the legal department.

      The What and Why

      Lyons recognized how challenging it is to set aside time from one's daily work routine to develop a strategic plan.  However, the increasing pressure General Counsel are under to run the legal department as a business – adding value to the organization and doing more with less – makes strategic planning a worthy investment.

      A strategic plan provides the necessary guidance, such as a list of top priorities and effective mechanisms to measure how the department is supporting the organization. A well-crafted strategic plan informs budget decisions and demonstrates the overall impact the legal department is capable of bringing into the business.

      Highlighting the driving reasons around why a legal department should have a strategic plan, Taylor noted that, “without a cohesive strategy you really risk having people not being aligned with one another.”

      There is a fundamental need for the legal department to have a mission that inspires a positive working culture and drives business success, Lyons added. A well-designed mission secures transformation and ensures the legal department can also support the company in responding to ever-changing disciplines (e.g., data privacy).

      Where to Start

      The speakers provided a comprehensive list of tasks to perform at the outset of the strategic planning process, including:

      • Obtain early buy-in of the General Counsel and senior leaders of the legal department.
      • Interview key business clients with two objectives in mind:
        • Collect information about clients’ experience working with the legal department and their overall expectations; and
        • Leverage their buy-in and feedback in order to facilitate access resources needed for the plan execution (e.g., funding, HR programs, etc.).
      • Obtain data on what other legal departments within and outside your industry are doing.
      • Evaluate the capabilities within the legal department as well as the operational component that would allow the department to execute the plan. As a result of this analysis, the department will be able to:
        • Ensure viability of delivery, and
        • Make informed decisions such as when to use vendors instead of increasing the department’s headcount or loading up the internal team with low-level work.
      • Establish a mission and a vision – why the department exists within the organization and what it should look like.
      • Establish metrics and benchmarks – metrics should measure the department’s current state and inform the process of developing benchmarks to help drive the department forward.
      • Align individual goals under the strategic plan – this helps keep the team focused on the strategy and holds them accountable for plan performance.
      • Align the General Counsel’s goals with those of the Chief Executive Officer and tie them to the strategic plan, and:
        • Ensure each Vice President assumes a portion of these goals,
        • Map out success criteria for each specific goal, and
        • Ensure performance is compensated in accordance with the degree of success to provide an incentive to the team.
      • Design a framework for the work the department performs (e.g., build, fix, innovate).
      • Include change management training in the plan as this is critical to engaging the team, obtaining their buy-in, and motivating them to stay invested in the execution of the plan.
      • Make sure you close the gap between strategy and execution.

      How to Measure Success

      The speakers provided a few recommendations for effective measurement of progress against department goals, to include:

      • Use of visual management tools that make data readily available when needed.
      • Continuous evaluation of whether metrics are effectively being used to make decisions – eliminating those that are not being used.
      • Annual or quarterly revision in order to check whether assumptions made when the plan was created still apply.
      • Periodic individual goal tracking.

      How Often the Strategic Plan Should be Updated

      The speakers advised that goals should be reviewed on a quarterly basis in order to determine whether or not such goals are still relevant. Every aspect of each goal, including KPIs and goal vs. budget, should be reviewed on an annual basis.

      Lyons also pointed out the importance of pinpointing those issues that require investment for both implementation and maintenance for the years ahead, which, for example, is the case with the GDPR compliance framework.  

      Since alignment of strategy and employees is also critical to the success of plan execution, employees should be able to voice whether they are experiencing any difficulty in executing the strategy. This may constitute a call for plan revision or an opportunity to collectively ensure the team stays on target.

      The speakers closed the session by noting it took them between three to six months to build their strategic plan and encouraging those legal operations professionals who struggle with obtaining the buy-in of the legal department senior leaders to start working with those who are willing to participate. Sooner or later, others will see the results and will be willing to collaborate.

      Suggested reading:

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      Four Insights on Cultural Change Management
      Joe Spratt, Independent Consultant

      Legal operations professionals are often the pivotal change agent in the law department, leading the implementation of new business practices, new team structures or new ways of thinking. While that role may put some professionals on the cutting edge – and put others simply on edge – ACC Legal Operations Conference Moderator and Chubb consultant Greg Stern humorously offered up this metaphor for driving and leading change: “I’d rather be guiding the buzzsaw than lying in front of it.”

      In the session “Cultural Change Management”, Stern and three other legal ops leaders shared candid insights, best practice strategies, and real-world examples.

      Here are some key takeaways:

      1.  First, build trust.

      Laura Ball rose through the ranks of Corning Incorporated as a chemist, not a lawyer. As the scope of her responsibilities broadened to legal operations director, she identified the need to build trust among her law department constituents. Her advice: find and leverage your strengths. Her science and research background helped her build and leverage relationships with IP lawyers, setting the stage to gain a foothold with others in the law department with whom she was less familiar. She also recommends establishing a strong level of trust before initiating more controversial change issues.

      2.  Tackle complacency head-on.

      While law departments inherently focus on corporate risk mitigation and risk management, legal ops professional Laura Caponi, noted that the biggest risk for today’s legal department can be its own complacency. Laura is head of operations and strategy for legal and compliance at Bristol-Myers Squibb, a company that has changed from a consumer products conglomerate (e.g. Clairol, Enfamil) to a specialized innovator that meets unmet medical needs. Laura highlighted four success factors for legal ops professionals to defeat complacency:

      • Demonstrate strong support for change, publicly and privately.
      • Ruthlessly prioritize your initiatives and projects to create capacity for change work.
      • Encourage your team to raise risks and act on them immediately.
      • Hold your team and your peers accountable for driving the transformation.

      3. Work with naysayers.

      Resistance to change is often cited as the pivot point between success and failure. Nikki Rahimzadeh, manager for law department consulting at UnitedLex, and Stern both noted the challenge and opportunities that naysayers in a group can present. Rahimzadeh suggested an approach to strategically staff change projects. Consider pairing up influential naysayers with equally influential supporters to increase mutual understanding and unpack or mitigate stumbling blocks. Incorporating their best practices as part of the broader change effort can build engagement.

      4. Focus on the team.

      Stern highlighted the value of focusing on the team. This was an overarching concept that guided the company’s multi-year change efforts. By focusing on team (versus individual) success, the concept of delivering value - as a team, and emphasizing execution - as a team, making change is less likely to be seen as personal criticism, and more as overall process improvement.


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      Employee Development and Training (Beyond CLE)
      Joe Spratt, Independent Consultant

      Traditionally, professional development and training programs in corporate legal departments have been attorney-centric, focusing on continuing legal education. Increasingly, progressive law departments have created training and development opportunities for all levels/employees in the law department, including non-attorney professionals. Efforts led by professionals like Josie Corbett, director of program management for the law department at Abbott Laboratories, emphasize building competencies (such as strategic thinking, executive presence) throughout the department to strengthen overall performance and collaboration.

      In her session on Employee Development and Training (Beyond CLE) at the 2017 ACC Legal Ops Conference, Corbett shared Abbott’s philosophy to build a team of “top-notch people, exercising good judgment to drive positive legal outcomes.”

      In a small-group exercise, teams applied Abbott’s approach by examining two questions from their own organization’s perspective:

      1. What non-legal, non-technical skills make people in your legal department (lawyers, support staff, administrative professionals) successful in your organization?
      2. What does your legal organization do to develop these skills?

      This simple, two-question pattern helped table teams quickly identify both needs and gaps in training that they could use in their own workplace. The exercise was a simplified model of how Abbott’s senior team identifies a single broad competency to focus on for an entire year across the law department. Two years ago, after Abbott Labs separated from what’s now Abbvie, the focus was on “prioritization and delegation” as the team adapted to significant structural and operational shifts. The following year, their efforts focused on “executive presence.”

      This year’s competency focus is on “360-degree thinking.” The Abbott team drilled down on how that competency would be built by training people on three key drivers of that concept:  good judgment, good decision-making and good questions.

      Corbett explained how such a competency is built among team members at different levels and how behaviors for exemplifying this competency are assessed. She also profiled the depth and commitment Abbott makes to developing these key competencies, citing the example of its Custom Legal Leadership Program, a multi-day program for a small group of 18-20 emerging leaders.


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      How to Get Involved With the ACC Legal Ops Community
      Catherine J. Moynihan, ACC

       There are many ways to get involved with and contribute to the ACC Legal Operations community. We would love to hear your ideas, learn and collaborate together!

      • Jump into one (or more) of the Interest Groups or Regional Groups, learning from others &/or sharing your know-how virtually or in person
      • Champion the Legal Operations Function - ACC recently launched a LinkedIn Showcase page for Legal Operations so in-house counsel and others in the legal ecosystem readily see leading practices shared among our members.  Help show off the value of legal ops professionals - follow it to get updates, share and tweet articles (#ACCLegalOps).
      • Let us know if you would like to be featured in the ACC Legal Ops Observer, the ACC Docket and the LinkedIn Legal Ops showcase page (a package deal!).  Email LawDepartmentOps@ACC.com to set up an interview.
      • Contribute an article to the ACC Legal Ops Observer to share your insights and best practices. Send us your short (750 words) article for publication at LawDepartmentOps@ACC.com.
      • Be an Ambassador – Many GCs are curious about the rise of legal ops, and we are communicating best practices in stepping up the operations function at ACC Chapter events. Drop an email to LawDepartmentOps@ACC.com if you are willing to share your know-how at a local ACC Chapter event/meeting. We even have a “Legal Ops 101” deck you can use as a template.
      • Benchmark your department through the new Maturity Model for the Operations of a Legal Department and then tune-in for (or teach) the monthly webinar series on the many facets of legal ops (stay for dates starting in September). 

      Suggestions or questions? LawDepartmentOps@ACC.com.

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      Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page
      Novus Law LLC, Client Solutions Team. Follow us on Twitter @NovusLawLLC.

      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.   Take a look at these three articles as provocative food for thought:

      We are adding more hand-picked items all the time - be sure to bookmark or subscribe to www.acc.com/legalops/news.

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      Join the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting

      The ACC Annual Meeting offers the best value in corporate legal education. Fulfill your annual CLE/CPD requirements and meet with thousands of your peers and legal service providers during three days of intensive programming on current legal and law department management issues.Check out the legal operations curriculum on the program schedule page. 

      Who Attends?

      In-house counsel and legal operations professionals

      Lawyers and legal ops pros from around the world attend the ACC Annual Meeting to stay current on the latest developments, pursue continuing legal education, meet and learn from peers, and identify potential law firm and legal service partners.

      Law firms and legal service providers

      Industry providers exhibit at the ACC Annual Meeting to gain access to the world’s largest gathering of corporate legal decision-makers. The value of participation is unmatched due to the numerous opportunities to interact with meeting attendees. Legal business happens at the ACC Annual Meeting.

      Prominent faculty

      Legal industry thought leaders present relevant and timely sessions at the ACC Annual Meeting. Experienced practitioners speak on a wide range of topics as they share their valuable insights with the in-house legal community.

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      Save The Date for the 2018 ACC Legal Ops Conference

      The 4th annual ACC Legal Operations Conference offers its members a unique opportunity to learn about the latest trends and advancements from industry experts, while also networking and collaborating with peers to address shared issues and opportunities. Save June 11-13 to come together in Chicago. Keep an eye on future ACC newsletters for updates and registration information! 

      Who Should Attend?

      Members of ACC Legal Operations – including leaders of corporate legal department operations, outside counsel and/or vendor management, IT, finance, project management, and information governance, as well as those in an enterprise function devoted to supporting the legal department – should attend the conference.

      What to Expect?  

      Attendees should expect the following:

      • Pre-conference boot camp and an opening reception
      • Workshops, instruction and expert-led roundtables
      • Interest Group meetings
      • Shark Tanks to check out new tech/service offerings
      • Networking opportunities

      For More Information: LawDepartmentOps@acc.com.

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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 www.acc.com/legalops or contact LawDepartmentOps@acc.com.

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      Contributing Editor:

      Recap of the 2017 ACC Legal Ops Conference
      Legal Ops Boot Camp Delivers Roadmaps for Effective Results
      Top Things to Consider When Doing Strategic Planning for Legal
      Four Insights on Cultural Change Management
      Employee Development and Training (Beyond CLE)
      How to Get Involved With the ACC Legal Ops Community
      Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page
      Join the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting
      Save The Date for the 2018 ACC Legal Ops Conference
      Not a Member of ACC Legal Ops? Join Now!
      Our Mission
      The Legal Ops Observer is devoted to reporting on topics important to the ACC Legal Operations community — from challenges we face to leading practices that work; and from innovation within companies to shaping the future of legal ops across the industry. Follow ACC on Twitter @ACCinhouse #ACCLegalOps and on the LinkedIn ACC Legal Ops showcase page.
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      To contact us, send an email to LawDepartmentOps@acc.com

      If you do not wish to receive further electronic communications from the Association of Corporate Counsel or ACC local Chapters, please send your request by email to unsubscribe@acc.com. You will be permanently removed from the ACC mailing list.
      Legal Ops