When Clients and Law Firms ACTUALLY Collaborate #ILTACON

2016_ILTACON_logoSession Title: A New Approach to Aligning the Objectives of Outside Counsel, In-House Legal, and Corporate Business

Session Description: The past few years have brought a lot of discussion about how to better align the interests of law departments and their outside counsel through alternative fee arrangements, but the discussions generally end there. What if there was an approach that aligned outside counsel and legal departments in their pursuit of better business outcomes that extended beyond pricing? How can the strength of that relationship help demonstrate the value that the legal department brings to the organization as a whole? Come hear a case study exploring how one legal department and its panel of law firms have partnered differently and how their holistic approach to solving legal problems has the power to transform the way the department delivers value to the business.

Speakers:

  • Chris EmersonDirector, Practice Economics Bryan Cave, LLP
  • Bryon KoepkeSVP, Chief Securities Counsel Avis Budget Group, Inc.
  • David A. RueffShareholder and Legal Project Management Officer, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz

Session Slides: Available through the ILTACON website

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • The Avis Story.  They undertook a convergence effort to reduce their legal panel from 700 law firms to seven firms globally. The winning seven firms are guaranteed work, provided they maintain expected quality levels. In addition, these firms work within a “target” (or fixed) fee structure. This convergence provided several benefits for the Avis legal department and their related business clients:
    • reduced administrative burden
    • cost certainty
    • legal risk mitigation
    • increased efficiencies in legal services
    • improved business outcomes
  • The New Way in which Avis wanted to work with its panel firms:
    • focus Avis resources on tiers of work that were created based on business risk and complexity
    • foster collaboration between Avis and its panel firms, as well as among the panel firms themselves
    • provide incentives to panel firms to invest in innovations that result in better business outcomes for Avis
  • The Work. Avis did a wide-ranging risk assessment and then asked their panel firms to bid on the work. Avis identified 3 categories of work:
    • Cream — high-risk work that requires high levels of legal expertise
    • Core — moderate-risk work that requires moderate levels of legal expertise
    • Commodity — low-risk work that does not require much legal expertise
  • Activities in Preparation for RFP. Avis asked 130 law firms to complete a “pre-qualifer” (PQ) that was quite similar to a law school exam. The questions in the exam reflected the real issues Avis faces. Each question was multi-disciplinary.
    • Law firms had a tight timeframe (about 10 days) within which to respond. Plus Avis sent this challenge out during Spring Break, which put added pressure on the law firms. This was a way of gauging responsiveness.
    • Of the 130 firms invited, only 80 responded.
      • 50 firms did not respond. Some thought Avis was trying to get free legal advice. They were wrong; Avis already had the answers to the questions in the PQ.
      • Some of the firms that did not respond thought their relationship with Avis was so solid that they did not need to go through these hoops. They were wrong; they were eliminated from the Avis panel
    • Some of the firms provided responses that simply were wrong.
    • All firms were asked to tell Avis how they would staff these matters and what they would charge.
    • Avis also asked how they answered these questions, whom they involved?
  • The RFP. They invited 45 law firms to participate in the RFP. (This was 45 out of the 80 firms that responded to the PQ.) There were three areas of emphasis:
    • Legal expertise
    • Pricing
    • Universal Requirements (Operations) — focused on actual examples of innovations these firms had developed to better the firm or outside clients. According to Avis, they were looking for Jetsons firms (firms that were innovative on behalf of themselves and their clients), not Flintstones firms that are stuck in the Stone Age.
  • How did the Firms respond to the RFP?
    • They researched the business goals of Avis so they could align their responses better to Avis’ needs
    • They managed tight turnarounds on drafts of the RFP as they involved a wide range of firm personnel in the RFP process in a very short period of time
    • Bryan Cave took a divide-and-conquer approach. They put the legal questions in the hands of the lawyers and kept the Universal Requirements in the hands of the legal operations team. The Bryan Cave legal ops group had the expertise to discuss the range of technologies they had invested in (or were contemplating) to improve firm and client outcomes, as well as completed or contemplated process improvement efforts.
  • The Semi-finals. During the semi-finals, Avis invited 17 firms to meet with the company. Each firm was asked to bring four partners of their choice and their legal operations person. During the interviews, the partners expected to lead the conversation. Instead, Avis said they would review their slides later. Then Avis asked to begin the conversation with the most important person in the room — the legal operations person.  (Partner jaws dropped!) Avis started with legal ops because they were serious about understanding the technology and innovation potential of each firm.
  • The All-Star Team. Avis invited the final seven firms to a Summit at which they met with business and legal department leaders of Avis. At that meeting, Avis made it clear that the chosen firms were stars that now had to find ways to work together as if they were on an All-Stars Team. This meant not just solo excellence, but collaborative excellence as well.
  • The Legal Ops Bounce. Crucially, the legal ops folks from the law firms met with the legal ops folks from Avis. This combined client/firm legal ops group has unleashed powerful tools and methodologies for the benefit of Avis (and the panel). Further, the emphasis that Avis has placed on legal ops gave the law firm legal ops teams greater confidence and enthusiasm in the work they do.
  • Avis Success Factors. Panels are graded on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs are assessed on a matter-by-matter basis and, in the aggregate, feed quarterly and annual performance assessments. Here are the KPIs:
    • how well a Matter Assessment Form (MAF) was filled out. (The MAF helps the firm and Avis scope out a potential matter very quickly.)
    • submission of MAF in 3 days
    • the number of changes in scope requested per matter
    • the firm’s ability to accurately predict legal spend and outcome
    • the ability of the firm to avoid surprises to business units
    • how the firm uses technology to improve accountability and efficiency
    • value-adds the firm provides to the Avis engagement
  • How Baker Donelson revised its processes to meet the Avis KPIs:
    • They created an intranet Client Site that tracks the Avis engagement
    • They created workflow to ensure they can turn around an MAF within the required 3 days. This workflow is managed via their  Avis client site
    • They use budget and project monitoring tools internally so that they can notify Avis before something happens. This allows them to meet the critical KPI of avoiding surprises.
    • They created workflow to manage changes in scope and budget
    • They developed an external communication plan for the Avis engagement
      • monthly case management updates
      • quarterly reports to in-house counsel
      • annual reports
      • how to deal with emergency issues
    • They developed an internal communication plan for the Avis engagement
      • phase and task code requirements for matters
      • training regarding the initial budgeting, MAF and change processes
      • training regarding regular updates on budgets and contingent liability
      • training on and communication of Avis’s outside counsel guidelines
  • How Bryan Cave has invested to improve the Avis engagement:
    • they developed new internal processes and technologies
    • they trained attorney teams on this new way of working
    • they created and provided to the Avis legal department training on alternative fee arrangements (AFAs):
      • how law firms construct AFAs
      • the types of AFAs and their typical uses
      • how to frame AFA requests to obtain responses that support business objectives
    • they worked with the Avis legal department to build a dynamic technology platform that
      • facilitates the MAF process for Avis and for all panel firms
      • capture critical data points in structured format
      • leverage workflow tools to enforce operational standards
      • integrate with Avis’ e-billing system to automatically open matters
      • display actionable information to all users via flexible dashboards
      • provides dynamic authoring tools to create/update forms within minutes/hours rather than days/weeks
      • stores information in structured databases, but can generate documents in formats attorneys are used to reviewing (e.g, Word or PDF)
    • Who reviews, tests and suggests improvements to the technology?
      • Bryan Cave engineers, business analysts and other operational professionals do the initial work
      • Avis attorneys and legal ops professionals advise on integrating the panel’s technology with Avis’ e-billing, advanced workflow reporting and alerting, dashboard structure and key metrics
      • Baker Donelson (and other panel teams) provide recommendations on U/I enhancements and how to integrate the shared technology with the proprietary technology platforms of the panel firms — this eliminates duplication of effort and strengthens their shared common sources of record
  • The Collaboration is Growing.
    • Now panel firms share Avis work with each other if they believe this approach will benefit the client.
    • If Bryan Cave creates new technology, Baker Donelson  will do acceptance testing. When Baker needs automated data feeds, Bryan Cave provides it. Both firms confer with each other (and the other firms) to find solutions that benefit the client.
    • The collaboration among the panel firms has generated new ideas and approaches to matter intake and AFA construction
    • The technology used by the panel firms has improved because these firms now have a reason and the ability to share ideas as never before
  • Next Steps. Both Avis and its panel firms have ambitions for growing and improving their collaboration.
    • On Avis’ list of next steps: Creating metrics to measure and dashboards to communicate progress in key strategic areas of operations.
    • On the panel firms’ list of next steps: Creating metrics to measure and dashboards to communicate progress by the panel firms in helping Avis manage its legal issues.
  • Results. This collaboration has been an unqualified success for  Avis and for its panel firms.
    • Avis: Thanks to the collaboration, the Avis legal department has now established itself as a critical business partner of the larger organization. Through its pioneering work in this collaboration, the legal department has modeled better ways of managing liability and expenditures that can now be applied across the company. Further, the work of the legal department has become a source of competitive advantage for the company.
    • Panel firms: Their experience with Avis has demonstrated how non-attorney professionals can be critical to the selection of the firm for a legal panel, as well as the on-going relationships between the firm and its client. The panel firms now have clear confirmation that their investments in innovation, project management, and process improvement have enabled them to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. Finally, these firms now see the benefits of not only collaborating with the client but also with the other panel firms. The Avis collaboration has become a significant win-win situation for these firms.
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Do You Really Know?

Do you really know how your colleagues work? Do you really know what they need? Are you sure? If you don’t truly understand them, how can you provide the right knowledge management and technology support to help them?

Every time I hear someone in law firm knowledge management or IT say “Our lawyers would never…,” I’m tempted to ask them to produce the evidence for their assertion.  All too often the person declaiming about the “lawyers” has never actually worked beside them for any meaningful period of time. However, this doesn’t stop them from making overly broad statements about “those lawyers” based on incomplete or misconstrued information.

How do they get themselves in this mess?  There are any number of ways:  collecting anecdotal information in an unsystematic way, failing to grasp the context for what they are being told, not understanding the business processes in which the lawyers are engaged, not discerning what motivates those lawyers, refusing to consider evidence that contradicts their preconceptions, etc. Regardless of how they found themselves in this mess, the consequences are not trivial.  Their approach can prevent these knowledge management or IT personnel from offering services and resources that could materially improve the work life and work product of their lawyer colleagues.  Further, it can be an enormous barrier to innovation when a service provide in KM or IT hides behind misguided impressions, rather than relying on facts.

So what’s the solution?  At the recent ILTA 2010 Conference, we heard of several more fruitful approaches to understanding better how your internal clients work.  Connie Hoffman (CIO at Bryan Cave) recommended engaging in active listening, as well as creating a close development partnership with the lawyers.  Sandy Owen (Operations Director, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Intel Corporation) and Jessica Shawl (Operations Program Manager, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Intel Corporation) told us how Intel used flip cameras to document in video exactly how their in-house lawyers worked and ways in which technology made their lives easier or more challenging.  They also conducted “web jams” to gather information on user needs from their internal clients.

Moving beyond the world of lawyers, Ted Schadler at Forrester recently recounted how Peter Hambling (CIO of Lloyd’s of London) set about to change the way the IT department interacted with the end-users at Lloyd’s:

They’ve … embedded IT staff directly into the cubicle farms of business employees; they’ve built innovative solutions with teams comprised of business and IT employees; they’ve created applications that empower employees to understand global risk through a familiar interactive map. They created a new contract with business managers and employees that gives IT professionals a place in the business.

So now you’ve seen some examples of ways to get closer to your internal clients and understand better how you can improve their work lives. If you’re tempted to try video, take a look at Life in a Day: the story of a single day on earth.  It’s a rather extreme example of documenting how people work and live. Perhaps it will inspire you.

[Photo Credit: dsb nola]

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Help Law Firms Deliver Value (ILTA09)

Shift happens — even in law firms. Are you ready? That’s the question that kept surfacing at the ILTA09 conference last week.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed the impact of the economy on law firms and their clients alike.  Thankfully, ILTA09 didn’t just remind us of the bad news all around.  The conference did something more helpful — it provided information and real examples of how lawyers and technologists around the world are rising to the challenges of the shifting landscape.

While I’ve provided some fairly detailed reporting of several ILTA09 sessions during the course of the past week,  I want now to take a step back and try to convey some general themes that emerged across sessions.  My first focus is on delivering value.  This theme was launched officially with a keynote address by Richard Susskind entitled, “The End of Lawyering?”.  Over the course of his keynote address and panel presentation, he made the following points:

  • If law firms are serious about addressing client concerns regarding the rising cost of legal services, those firms will have to increase efficiency radically.  In order to manage costs, clients are going to have to consider collaboration with other clients and thereby share costs.
  • The best way to reduce costs intelligently is to start by analyzing your current costs of delivering services.  Once firms break down service into its component parts and price those parts, firms can then experiment with finding cheaper ways to provide those components.  This may mean sub-contracting the work or moving it offshore, for example.
  • One way to reduce costs is to standardize services (e.g., creating model or standard form documents). Going further, you can systematize or automate those services (e.g., by using document assembly tools).  Once automation is complete, a firm can then package these services and make them available online to clients, who can use the packaged services as and when needed.  The example Susskind cited was Wilson Sonsini’s contract generator for start ups.  He described packaged services like this as a means for firms to “make money while you sleep.”
  • Central to rethinking how we deliver services more efficiently is disrupting the current business model and deploying disruptive technologies in our firms.  However, while these disruptive technologies will give a firm competitive advantage, Susskind believes that most firms don’t seek this.  In his experience, firms are more concerned about suffering a competitive DISadvantage rather than having a competitive advantage.  In other words, they are more worried about being left behind than blazing a new trail.
  • Here are the top 10 disruptive technologies  Richard Susskind identified:
    • Automated document assembly.
    • Relentless Connectivity.  (Clients expect 24/7 availability, so lawyers need to use online tools to provide a continuous online presence.)
    • Electronic legal marketplace.  (Like on ebay, clients will have better pricing information and will be able to auction/bid for legal services.)
    • e-Learning.  (Laws schools are beginning to use online simulation tools train students for modern legal practice circa 2009 not 1980.)
    • Online Legal Service. (There are many English public sector websites that offer online legal guidance, so you don’t have to hire a lawyer.)
    • Legal Open-Sourcing. (Some legal resources are now gathered and offered free of charge.  This trend will grow like wikipedia.)
    • Closed Legal Communities. (More clients will form online communities to collect and share legal know-how.)
    • Workflow & Project Management. (Automation and enhanced project management can improve margins on high volume, low value work.)
    • Embedded Legal Knowledge. (More systems will embed compliance requirements, thus removing the need for separate legal advice.)
    • Online Dispute Resolution. (Moving dispute resolution online eliminates the expense of having to meet in a physical location.)

At a later session, Fred Krebs (President  of the Association of Corporate Counsel in Washington, D.C.) spoke about the ACC’s Value Challenge, which is based on the premise that it is the clients that define what constitutes “value” in legal services.  He started by pointing out that while overall costs to corporations have increased by 20% during the past 10 years, their legal costs have risen by 75%.  In order to address this imbalance, the members of the ACC have issued the Value Challenge to counteract what they describe as the “perverse incentives of the billable hour.” The Value Challenge aims to help corporate counsel manage costs by increasing transparency in the process for setting prices for law firm services.  Their hope is that this will bring about more efficiency and cost predictability.

Moving from theory to action, we then heard from some firms that were taking concrete steps to address the new economic realities.  One firm that has moved significantly down this path is Bryan Cave.  As John Alber and Connie Hoffman told us over the course of two sessions, they have spent significant time analyzing their services and business processes and now believe they know what it really costs to deliver services to clients.  With this data in hand, Bryan Cave can model the impact on price by changing the components of service (e.g., what happens if you change the staffing?).  Along the way, they created an online tool to help with this analysis and then licensed that tool to Redwood Analytics, who now provides it to other firms.  (This is another example of what Susskind calls “making money while you sleep.”)  Bryan Cave has also rethought how to conduct a due diligence review and created an online tool that streamlines the due diligence process.  They have been able to push due diligence work down to less expensive personnel while ensuring quality through a training component embedded in the tool.  In addition, they are providing transparency by allowing clients to obtain reports on demand regarding the process and cost of the due diligence effort.

On the subject of transparency, Mallesons in Australia has blazed a new trail with Mallesons Connect.  As described by Gerard Neiditsch, this new extranet application gives clients real-time information regarding lawyer activity, progress against project goals, and fees incurred.   It also provides information on billing history and outstanding invoices.  In the process, Mallesons learned that this transparency can have unexpected benefits.  Besides keeping everyone accountable, Mallesons discovered that once their law department clients saw the invoice information, they were able to expedite payments.

If your firm would like to rethink how it delivers value to its clients, the panelists advise you to start by analyzing your business processes.  Using a simple Gantt chart,  identify the components and dependencies of your process.  Once you really understand the workflow, introduce simple technology to help automate parts of the process.  If it works, extend it.  If it doesn’t work, learn from it.  Throughout this process, however, don’t forget the advice of Steven Levy, as quoted by one of the panelists:  “Technology cannot replace thinking. Automating broken processes won’t make us smarter; it can make us stupider faster.”

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For more information on delivering value to clients, see the following resources:

My post on a prior talk given by Richard Susskind and its implications for law firm knowledge management.

David Hobbie’s Caselines posts on Richard Susskind’s keynote address and the related panel presentation.

Andrew McLennan-Murray’s summary of Richard Susskind’s keynote and panel presentation.

Susan Jacobsen’s post on the the ACC Value Challenge session at ILTA09.

ACC’s resources on Leveraging Knowledge, including specific measures taken by various law firms.

[Photo Credit:  dasmart]

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