January 2018
Ops Excellence Has Starring Role Among ACC Value Champs
Novus Law LLC Client Solutions Team. Follow us on Twitter @NovusLawLLC

Whether leading innovative initiatives or implementing creative solutions to address pain points, legal operations executives are increasingly the key power players to transforming corporate legal departments.

The importance of operations took center stage when ACC Value Champions past and present gathered at the ACC Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. this fall to celebrate their many accomplishments and share some of their challenges of the past year.

Avis Budget Group Inc. (2017) General Counsel Michael Tucker kicked off the discussion by gesturing to Vivek Hatti, director legal operations, at his side, introducing him as his “right-hand man” within the legal department. 

“None of this happens without his daily efforts,” Tucker said of Hatti’s leadership of the department’s innovative initiatives. The organization recently completed a non-traditional convergence program, reducing the number of law firm partners from more than 600 to 7. “We have a unique engagement model with outside counsel and set of metrics that gives us the ability to do a number of things. We’re not only managing the costs of matters but also the impact we have on the business from EBITDA and revenue to operations and lowering the risk profile of the company.” (Photo Left: Tucker shares insights at ACC Value Champion roundtable.)

In fact, Avis’s legal department has cut its budget by 33 percent from 2014 to 2016, inclusive of hiring six in-house lawyers, launching a new matter tracking systems, and hiring an additional legal ops manager under Tucker's watch. “We’ve overhauled the legal department in a way that’s never been done before,” added Tucker.

Ops Critical to Sucess of Massive Legal Departments 

Another celebrated legal ops "win" came from ACC Value Co-Champions (2017) Express Scripts and Husch Blackwell which also implemented a massive operations overhaul – this time restructuring their processes for litigation, arbitration, and mediation through the creation of standardized playbooks, assignment maps and work streams, automated budget tracking, and an online collaboration portal. The two organizations then worked together to retrain outside and in-house teams to ensure uniformity and allow for detailed analysis and improvement of processes in real-time.

“As the legal demands for Express Scripts and Husch grew tremendously, we realized that few of us had the historical knowledge of these types of disputes,” said Husch Blackwell Partner Chris Smith. “We didn’t need more people, just the tools to work more efficiently.” 

“The biggest frustration was managing budgets. Things would be broken-down in the wrong segments; there were delays; we’d send a bill [to Express Scripts] and afterward get [an internal] report saying it was over-budget on a metric. That’s not the position you want to be in,” said Smith. “You don’t want a report that you’re over-budget after you’ve sent the bill.”

With the support of Husch Blackwell’s technology and accounting teams, they reconfigured how budgets were broken down and tracked. With uniform procedures and standard billing practices in place, they’re now able to effectively view costs in real-time and across large groups of cases to quickly identify and address problem areas before they grow.

The biggest challenge to introducing legal process management and operations initiatives to commercial litigation at Express Scripts and the law firm wasn’t technological or lack of resources. It was the mindset of the status quo, including those who routinely insisted that the bespoke nature of litigation made operationalization impossible.

“That was the biggest hurdle,” said Urmila Paranjpe Baumann, assistant general counsel for litigation at Express Scripts, “to get people out of that mindset that litigation is a black box that you can’t operationalize.”

Just as Express Scripts’ merger triggered an operational transformation, Bankrate (2017) tripled its growth through a private equity purchase. For the legal department, that meant a huge need to tame out of control contracting. VP and senior counsel Jessica DeBianchi Rivera explained that they started at the beginning, putting together a legal intake process, collecting the necessary information. Additionally, noteworthy in a legal department of only three lawyers, Bankrate on-boarded a legal operations professional. 

“She is managing the business of the legal department; so we can take on more," said Rivera. By leveraging a full complement of new tools and techniques, Bankrate reduced conflicts and, thus, legal spending.

Ops Revolutionizes Day-to-Day Functions of Legal Departments 

In contrast, the grind of daily operations was burying the legal team at Ricoh Americas (2017). In-house attorneys were “drowning in the day-to-day; being reactive instead of proactive,” said Jami Segota, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary.

The legal department partnered closely with its ACC Value Co-Champion Reed Smith to build a collaborative, online knowledge management (KM) system that ultimately relieved the in-house lawyers of 90 percent of administrative duties so that they could focus on more substantive work and strategic initiatives, Segota said. 

The key to the platform’s success was some “tough love” teaching the organization’s business and sales professionals to intuitively go to the site to “self-serve,” such as using the portal to retrieve readily available information rather than bogging down the in-house team with questioning emails.

Past champions chimed in with tips to achieve strong adoption of knowledge management systems, including mirroring the search engines users are already accustomed to using, holding the legal department accountable for keeping content regularly updated and using good, old-fashioned change management skills. 

“If the site is outdated, you lose credibility immediately,” said Lucy Bassli, assistant general counsel, legal operations and contracting at Microsoft (2014), “When the first employee hits a dead link it’s over. You have to take ownership to keep it fresh,” she added. (Photo Right: Bassli talks best practices at ACC Value Champs roundtable.)

“There are ways of pushing and encouraging clients to do things,” said Greg Stern, former vice president and deputy general counsel at Chubb (formerly ACE, 2014). “Humans don’t like change, especially when they’re already really busy doing stuff that is really complicated. If you ask them to indulge in change on top of that, it’s hard. You’ll be much more successful if a change is a natural progression to what they’re already doing.”
Learn More About the ACC Value Champions and how to be named a 2018 ACC Value Champion at www.acc.com/valuechampions. Nominations are due 31 January 2018.

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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Maturity Model Toolkit and Webinar Series


The ACC Legal Operations Maturity Model Toolkit and Webcast Series offers all the resources you and your team need to align with management on priorities and improve operations in your legal department. The toolkit, presented in a series of monthly webcasts, will provide actionable and customizable resources to help legal departments advance from early to intermediate stages in key functions, such as financial management, legal technology, vendor management, knowledge management, compliance, contract management, and information governance, among others.

Don’t miss the first webcast – focusing on Strategic Planning - Thursday, January 25th at 2p ET featuring Aaron Van Nice of Baxter, Christine Juhasz of Mass Mutual, and Nancy Jessen and Nikki Rahimzadeh of UnitedLex. Go to acc.com/maturity to register for the webcasts and return often to download the tools that the ACC Legal Operations working groups are assembling, along with our terrific partners.

Want to get involved in developing the toolkit? It’s not too late - email LawDepartmentOps@ACC.com.

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Happenings in the ACC Legal Ops Community

Have You Noticed the New Events Page?

It’s your one-stop-shop to RSVP for upcoming webcasts and roundtables. In recent weeks, peers have exchanged information about knowledge management, law firm security reviews, assessing legal systems, international legal operations, in-house pro bono and more – plus, many tuned in for vendor demo webcasts on using AI for contract lifecycle management (Kim Technologies) and a new AFA-friendly RFP platform (Persuit). Sign up now for programs in January – and while you’re at it, mark your calendar for the 2018 ACC Legal Operations conference, June 11-13 in Chicago.

Missed a Webcast?  Catch It in the Revamped ACC Legal Ops Resources Page

The collection of resources by and for legal ops professionals has grown substantially, so you will want to filter by topic and format. Click here to catch up on webcasts, find tools contributed by your peers, and more. Speaking of resources, check out the latest in the ACC Leading Practices Profiles series, explaining how ops is done in 11 global companies, and featuring GC perspectives on the value and impact of the function.

Educating GCs About Legal Ops

A well-structured and empowered legal ops function is an impactful legal ops function – that’s the message we are conveying to the larger ACC community. At the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting in October, four seasoned legal ops pros put on a session dubbed, “How to Set Up a Best-In-Class Legal Ops Function.” In addition, an ensemble faculty delivered the acclaimed “Boot Camp for Leaders of Early Stage Legal Operations Functions,” tailored for GCs. At the ACC Annual Meeting booth we distributed the Maturity Model and the newly published resource: Legal Operations: Leading Practices in Implementing Strategy, Leading Change and Advancing Law Department Excellence.” Leaders of ACC Legal Operations sported “Ask Me About Legal Ops” ribbons and joined the Law Department Management and Small Law Department committee meetings to raise awareness of what we are doing (advancing the profession!).

Shine a Light on Your Accomplishments – 2018 ACC Value Champion Nominations Due Jan. 31

If your department has cut costs, improved spend predictability or achieved better outcomes, put in a nomination to garner accolades for your team and share what works with others. http://www.acc.com/valuechallenge/valuechamps/.


New! Awards for Member Volunteer, Interest Group and Legal Ops Pro/Team of the Year

We appreciate all that our members do to contribute to the ACC Legal Operations community and want to honor top volunteers at the 2018 ACC Legal Operations conference.  We will also showcase great accomplishments by legal ops professional/team on behalf of their own organizations - providing inspiration to peers. Download the nomination forms by clicking on the award category: ACC Legal Operations Member of the Year, Legal Operations Interest Group of the Year and Legal Operations Professional/Team of the Year and get ready to submit nominations by March 31st.

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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. Take a look at these great highlights. 

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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Actions You Can Take to Promote Legal Ops
You can champion the legal operations function, raise your profile as a business leader, be an ambassador to the GC community and, as ever, be counted as we make decisions about the coming year.
  • Champion the Legal Operations Function - Follow the LinkedIn ACC Legal Operations Showcase page to help show off the value of legal ops professionals - share and tweet articles and events (#ACCLegalOps).

    • Be profiled in the ACC Legal Ops Observer! We love to highlight our hard-working and innovative GCs + CLOOs! Let us know if you would like to set up an interview to be featured here as well as in the ACC Docket and the LinkedIn Legal Ops showcase page (a package deal!). 

      • Author an Article about your legal operations initiatives and insights – send us your short (750 words) piece for publication.

      • Be an Ambassador –Many GCs are curious about the rise of legal ops, and we are communicating best practices in standing up the operations function at ACC Chapter events. Drop a line 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. 
      As ever, just email LawDepartmentOps@ACC.com to take action. 
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      Save The Date - 2018 ACC Legal Ops Conference - June 11-13

      Save June 11-13 to come together in Chicago for the most advanced conference program yet. A committee of members is putting final touches on an agenda that offers interactive sessions, producing take-aways to accelerate your contributions and success in the quickly evolving legal ecosystem. 

      What to Expect?  

      • Advanced sessions on Blockchain, AI, AFAs, and more
      • Pre-conference boot camp for newbies
      • Workshops and expert-led roundtables
      • Interest Group meetings and working sessions to solve common problems
      • Shark Tanks to check out new tech/service offerings
      • Networking opportunities galore

      Were you unable to join us in 2017? See highlights of last summer's conference here!

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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:

      Ops Excellence Has Starring Role Among ACC Value Champs
      Maturity Model Toolkit and Webinar Series
      Happenings in the ACC Legal Ops Community
      Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page
      Actions You Can Take to Promote Legal Ops
      Save The Date - 2018 ACC Legal Ops Conference - June 11-13
      Not a Member of ACC Legal Ops? Join Now!
      Our Mission
      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.
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