February 5, 2020
How You Can Bridge the Innovation Gap between Firms and In-House Legal Teams
By Lucy Endel Bassli, Founder, InnoLegal Services PLLC
In my new book, The Simple Guide to Legal Innovation: Basics Every Lawyer Should Know, I started with a vision to distill all the buzz about innovation in the legal press these past few years. The word “innovation” has almost lost all meaning. As I worked through the process of simplifying the various concepts related to the very broad topic of legal innovation, I realized my book was turning into a sort of encyclopedia for law firms and law firm lawyers struggling to respond to their clients' requests for innovative solutions. In all fairness, those requests are often vague and unforgiving. For this article, I selected seven of the top topics every [law firm] lawyer should know and translated them specifically to improve how in-house legal professionals communicate innovative opportunities to their law firms. 
 
1. Innovation is in the eye of the beholder
There is no one definition. Asking the firm to deliver their service in a different way than they have done it in the past, even in the smallest way, can produce innovation. The bar for this definition is quite low in the legal profession. Asking for a quarterly “business review meeting” is a great way to force a different rhythm and to drive a deeper conversation to assess the quality of the relationship. This is commonly known as a QBR in the business world, but all-too uncommon in legal services.
 
2. Don’t be afraid to require dedicated Project Management
Much of what lawyers do every day is project management, but many don’t realize that. Adding an experienced project manager to any large law firm engagement is sure to make the engagement more organized and efficient. Deadlines will be monitored, costs will be controlled, and communications will be effective. Law firms should assign project managers as standard practice, but if they do not, clients should require it.
 
3. Gain efficiency by demanding process (re)mapping
Thinking about the legal practice as a series of takes inside a process is still a difficult perspective to accept for most lawyers. As in-house teams strive to become more efficient, law firms must keep up to deliver legal services more efficiently. Most big firms have professionals on staff that can run a process optimization exercise with their clients. If the in-house teams feel like something can be done more efficiently, they should ask the firm to help assess the current state and recommend improvements.
 
4. Automate your collaboration
Legal technology is exploding and creating so many opportunities to be more efficient, but it is not the cure-all. Asking about the firm’s technology usage in an RFP is now quite common, but rarely results in anything truly beneficial. Start with the basics and ask the firm to create an online collaboration site to access content and exchange documents. 
 
5. Require a Law Firm to apply a Managed Service Model
Driving down the hourly rates for traditional services is old news (and not effective in reducing total costs). Managed legal services are being delivered by the alternative legal service providers, so why not law firms? It is not easy to fit such a model into the law firm standard practice, but there are pockets of opportunities to bundle a piece of work and hand it off to a firm to handle almost completely independently, leveraging technology and alternative resources. This concept mirrors what has been done in finance for many years (and I did at Microsoft), and now a few law firms are starting to experiment with it. In many ways, this is cutting-edge innovation!
 
6. Push your firms to employ Alternative Legal Service Providers
Delivery of legal services by providers other than law firms is becoming more common across most legal departments (according to the 2020 ACC CLO Survey, 1 in 5 general counsel plan to send more work to ALSPs). As they continue to climb up the value chain and challenge the definition of the practice of law, they provide great value for certain types of legal work. Law firms can incorporate these providers into their back office and for lower-level work, reducing client costs.
 
7. Use Data to drive continuous improvement in quality and performance
It’s all about data. Every law firm is sitting on tons of it. Every legal department is craving more of it. It already exists in unstructured forms in many systems, and investments must be made to extract valuable insights that are hidden within. This is my favorite concept on this list because it is easiest to ask for. Every law firm should be able to deliver basic data points about the work it performs for its clients, especially any recurring work: How many deliverables, what types, and the associated costs. 
 
Conclusion 
In short, in-house teams MUST ask for change in a way that is actionable and tangible. From what I’ve seen in law firms, they are eager to solve clients’ problems and want to be innovative, but they need specific direction on what would be impactful for the client. Honestly, It’s only fair!
 
Lucy Endel Bassli is a legal industry expert and in-house counsel veteran, engaging in thought-leadership projects to drive change and evolution in the delivery of legal services. She is the founder of InnoLegal Services PLLC, where she works with law departments and law firms on innovating their legal service delivery, and trains lawyers in innovative practices. While Lucy specializes in all things contracting (resource allocation, automation, process optimization, and smart risk-taking), she is also a legal operations generalist with experience in spend management, knowledge management, and strategic planning. Lucy serves as a strategy advisor for LawGeex, a cutting-edge AI legal tech start-up automating contract review services. 
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Identifying the "Right" Legal Tech Partner(s) to innovate your Corporate Legal Department
By Nita Sanger, CEO, Idea Innovate Consulting
Corporate Legal Departments (CLDs), are driving the change in the legal industry, as they face significant pressure to become a strategic advisor to their C-suite, to do “more with less”, and improve efficiency and effectiveness of their legal operations. CLDs are now being courted by all providers in the legal services ecosystem: Law firms, Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs), Big Four, LegalTech’s and other Service Providers. To improve the efficiency of the department, a critical aspect for the Corporate Legal Department is to identify the right technology partner(s) to work and/or partner with. Identifying the right partner usually requires of a five-stage process. The five stages are:
 
1. Establishing a cross-functional team
Cross-functional team collaboration has become key with new emerging innovative technologies and vendors, with competitors continuously scrumming, and companies wanting to stay on top of the game. A cross-functional team will include people that are from various spheres of the business that bring together their knowledge, expertise, and experience. The team should potentially include people with legal business and operations, technology strategy and execution and business operational experience, who can look at each process from various perspectives. 
 
2. Identifying the priority areas of focus 
The team would need to identify ~20% of the tasks or processes, where the legal team spends 80% of its time or money. Usually these are no more than 10 to 15 tasks or processes. For each of the tasks or processes:
  • Create a detailed journey map of all the current steps in the process;
  • Identify the pain points/areas where there is potential to increase efficiency and/or reduce spend;
  • Examine existing solutions, if any, that are already in place for parts of the process;
  • Review each process with the core-team and assess and prioritize the areas of focus.
3. Map an approach for operational efficiency
For the prioritized task, the key is to determine how the entire process will be performed in the future. Most of the tasks will continue to require a combination of human intervention, while the other parts of the process, could be:
  • Eliminated;
  • Automated, leveraging a technology vendor;
  • Sent to a low-cost service provider;
  • Outsourced to an Alternative Legal Service Provider (ALSP); or
  • A combination of the above.   
This creates a level of complexity that may not have existed in a historically manual or automated process and will require thinking about the appropriate technology partner, in a very different fashion from the past. 
 
4. Identifying the “right” tech partner
They key factors to focus on when picking the technology partner(s) historically have been: 
  • Identifying players that have the appropriate business, technology and/or industry expertise;
  • Assessing the capabilities of the leadership, and the technical and delivery team;
  • Determining if the culture of the technology partner is a good fit with the organization’s culture;
  • Obtaining business references and testimonials; 
  • Assessing the capability of the technology firm to provide customer service and support, after the sale; and
  • Picking a partner that understands the systems they develop for the organization and keeps pace with the clients’ business as it evolves.
Given that the business process will be performed differently in the future, it is key to make sure that the technology partner(s) has systems and technologies that have:
  • Interoperability and can integrate with the other systems and programs within the organization, and/or be part of the organization’s innovation ecosystem or platform; 
  • Open architecture and can be easily upgraded, given the rapid pace of technological change; 
  • Ability and the willingness to partner with other LegalTechs to provide a more holistic solution to the client for a single process, e.g. for contracts, the solution would need to work with other solutions so that the end-user does not have to go in and out of each solution for developing, reviewing and analyzing a single document. 
  • For clients with global businesses, ability to operate in multiple languages and be hosted in key jurisdictions;
  • Potential for customization, as needed, to meet the company’s needs.
5. Conducting agile experiments
The key is to realize that picking the right partner(s) is only the start of the process to transform the CLD. The cross-functional team, will bring together additional subject matter experts as needed, and run Agile experiments to create a Minimum Viable Product that can be tested, iterated upon based on end-user feedback, before being piloted and rolled-out to the business.
 
Conclusion
In conclusion, the process of picking the “right” technology partner(s) is a complex and time-consuming process. Picking partners is only the start of the process to transform the Corporate Legal Department. It is critical to realize that each Corporate Legal Department’s journey to pick the “ideal” technology partner(s), and the actual partner(s) selected, will be unique and be determined by where the corporation is in their innovation and transformation journey, and they will likely select the vendor that best fits within their existing technology and process ecosystem.
 
Nita Sanger is the Chief Executive Officer of Idea Innovate Consulting, a boutique consulting firm focused on transforming services businesses (in legal, financial and professional services) for growth, helping them be successful in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), business environment. She has 20 years of experience working with global large and mid-sized corporates and start-ups and scale-ups in financial, professional and legal services. Nita is a blockchain enthusiast and has written and presented on the impact of blockchain on various businesses. She can be reached at nsanger@ideainnovate.com.
 
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Nominations open for Annual Member, Interest Group, and Professional/Team Awards.
The Executive Team of the Steering Committee of the ACC Legal Operations section will recognize members and teams for outstanding accomplishments on behalf of our organization and legal departments at Xchange 2020
 
Download nomination forms here for the following three categories:
 
 
Nominations close April 3rd - recognize your outstanding colleagues today! 

In photo: (L to R) Sam Ranganthan, Sr. Director, Legal Operations at AbbVie and Chair, ACC Legal Operations Section; Melissa Dehonney, Corporate Counsel, Information Governance at Novo Nordisk; Samantha Frasso, Director, Business Management, Legal Operations at TIAA; and Reese Arrowsmith, VP, Head of Legal Operations at the Campbell Soup Company.

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Upcoming Events for February and March

View all upcoming ACC Legal Operations events here.  Note: All meetings are in Eastern Standard Time. 
 

Date: February 11 at 3:00 p.m.
Topic: Facilitating Lean Six Sigma in Law Departments
Interest Group: Process, Project & Knowledge Management 
 
Date: February 13 at 11:00 a.m. 
Topic: Contract Management Demo (Agriloft)
Interest Group: Internal Resource Mgmt and Tools & Tech
 
Date:  February 13 at 2:00 p.m.
Topic: TBD
Interest Group:  External Resource Management
 
Date: February 19 at 3:00 p.m.
Topic: Data Subject Access Requests (DSARs)
Interest Group: Information Governance & eDiscovery
 
Date: February 20 at 1:00 p.m.
Topic: TBD
Interest Group: Metrics & Analytics Interest Group
 
Date: February 25 at 12:00 p.m.
Legal Ops professionals can use their management expertise to coordinate and optimize the legal department’s pro bono program, helping the program to reach new levels of efficiency, maturity, and impact.

Date: March 10 at 3:00 p.m.
Topic:  Task Management/Project Management
Interest Group:  Process, Project & Knowledge Management

Date: April 19 - April 21
ACC Xchange 2020 - Conference for Legal Operations Professionals 
 
If you would like to participate, please email lawdepartmentops@acc.com to receive a calendar invitation - be sure to mention which event(s)! Note:  All meetings are in Eastern Standard Time.
 
 
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Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page

The ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements tab tracks the best items to keep you well-informed. Following are some highlights.

Intake & Triage Matters for Corporate Legal Departments: Why It Matters & How to Keep Clients Happy
It may not be the stuff of compelling legal thrillers, but intake and triage truly are paramount concerns for Legal Departments: done wrong, it can lead to fumbled projects, duplicated efforts and/or an overwhelming pipeline. Done right, it can set up each matter for success. Read the two installments of this series here and here. [ATL]  

As the demographics of law continue to skew younger, it’s important to implement efficient tech solutions that reflect the world millennials grew up in. [LBM]
 
This article explores how we need to partner/work together with our chosen providers to succeed, with emphasis upon the process of establishing the parameters for effective communication. [ALM]
 
Read a good article that we missed? Share it with your fellow members in the Forum.
 
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How to Get More Involved in the ACC Legal Ops Community
There are many ways to get involved with and contribute to the ACC Legal Operations community and raise your professional profile. We would love to hear your ideas, learn and collaborate together!
  • Post in the Member Forum when you have questions, need referrals, or want to share opinions or articles/resources with your peers. You can also find recordings of Interest Groups calls in the Forum.
  • Participate in or start a Regional Group to build relationships through in-person interaction or share your know-how in an Interest Group call. 
  • Champion the Legal Operations function - the ACC Legal Operations LinkedIn Showcase page offers peers, in-house counsel and others in the legal ecosystem 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 or author an article in the ACC Legal Ops Observer, the ACC Docket and the LinkedIn Legal Ops showcase page (a package deal!).  
  • Be an Ambassador – many GCs are curious about the rise of legal ops, and we are communicating best practices at ACC Chapter events. We even have a “Legal Ops 101” deck you can use as a template. 

Email us to get involved - with offers to share your know-how, suggestions or any questions! 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:

How You Can Bridge the Innovation Gap between Firms and In-House Legal Teams
Identifying the "Right" Legal Tech Partner(s) to innovate your Corporate Legal Department
Nominations open for Annual Member, Interest Group, and Professional/Team Awards.
Upcoming Events for February and March
Highlights from the ACC Legal Ops News & Announcements Page
How to Get More Involved in the ACC Legal Ops Community
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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