Nontraditional Stakeholders in the Law Department/Firm Relationship

I’ve been discussing structured
dialogue
between law departments and law firms focused on continuous
improvement in the use of process and technology to deliver legal services. A
point I have yet to make, however, is the importance of nontraditional stakeholders to the success of such initiatives.
By nontraditional stakeholders, I mean anyone other than the
law department’s managing counsel and the law firm’s relationship partner.
Typically, those two roles are filled by subject-matter experts. This is as it
should be. But their focused expertise and elevated positions often remove them
from the more routine, laborious efforts that are most amenable to process
improvement and innovation. There is no reason to automatically assume that
they are multi-talented (though many are) and their expertise extends beyond
their domain. Allied professionals are vital to proper client representation.
Who should talk to whom really depends on the situation.
Because of my personal background, my instinctive response includes the head of
law department operations talking to the law firm CIO, and the head of legal sourcing
talking to the law firm pricing director. Additional pairings might include frontline lawyers, paralegals, paratechnicals, project managers, or IT
staff from the respective parties. For example, in the exemplar findings
I posted, I recommend that the project managers from the client and law firm
discuss ways to harmonize the respective workflows and better share KPI’s.
But it is important to get beyond the notion that the law
firm and law department should mirror each other and dialogue must occur
between direct peers. BigLaw may service lean law departments, and mammoth law
departments may rely on boutique law firms. The fundamental question are, “What
are the objectives?” and “Who are the subject-matter experts with respect to
the objectives?”
For example, an in-house counsel may be concerned with the
high percentage of a firm’s bills allocated to research costs. While the in-house
counsel recognizes that the case types the firm handles demand some research (simply
prohibiting research costs is not a viable option), her impressionistic sense
is that the associates spend far too much time reinventing the wheel. Tired of
cutting information-poor invoices by arbitrary amounts, she initiates a Service
Delivery Review
.
The SDR demonstrates to her that (a) the bespoke
research her cases require is more substantial than she believed, but, still, (b) the
practice group handling her work does not take advantage of the firm’s
knowledge management offerings, and (c) the associates staffed on her
matters do not rely on the firm’s research services because her predecessor
refused to pay for them. The in-house counsel will reverse the policy on paying
for research services and look at research-related time entries with a less
jaundiced eye if the firm demonstrates progress on reducing research costs. Besides
the relationship partner and her associates, nontraditional stakeholders from
the law firm who may participate in the conversation include:
  • Library & Research Services to
    discuss how research specialist can be integrated into the workflow.
  • Knowledge Management to discuss the
    tools and methodologies available to reduce repeat investigations of the same
    issue.
  • Project Management to discuss how
    the initiative to reduce research costs can be tracked and measured.
  • Pricing to discuss alternative ways
    to budget for research and share the risks of wheel reinvention and goldplating.
  • Workflow to discuss how to ensure
    that the right people are doing the right work.
  • Client Development to understand
    what the client is asking of the firm, to act as the client’s internal advocate,
    and to ensure the initiative is proceeding according to the client’s expectations.
The ultimate objective in the above scenario is to improve
client satisfaction by generating higher quality research in less time and at
lower cost. The firm would be rewarded with higher
realizations/profit
and goodwill, which means a better working relationship
and, possibly, additional work in the future.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Casey Flaherty is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker. He believes that there is a better way to deliver legal services. Better for the clients. Better for the legal professionals. Better for the bottom line. Casey is creator of the Legal Technology Assessment, an integrated Basic Technology Benchmarking and training platform. Follow Casey on LinkedIn and on Twitter @DCaseyF.


See also:

Hello
Strategic Sourcing: The Service Delivery Review
Deep Supplier Relationships
Law Firm Realizations
Structured Dialogue

from Blogger http://thomassmithblog.blogspot.com/2015/08/nontraditional-stakeholders-in-law.html

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