A report from the job site
But … in the meantime, we have work to do.
We need to learn how to do the work differently, manage it differently and structure and negotiate different fees—based on agreed and measured value, not on hours. And that we is indeed all—law firms and clients together.
Not familiar, not easy, and in the short run not fun. Like yoga and cross-fit training. But once you get the hang of it, it feels good, improves strength and flexibility, and lengthens lives.
Do By Learning, Learn By Doing
The best way to learn is to do, of course. A first-class opportunity to do without risk—that is, to practice in a realistic but not real setting where mistakes don’t cost dollars and everyone’s a novice—is the Legal Service Management Workshop created by theAssociation of Corporate Counsel (“ACC”).
The two-day program is a bit like boot camp—up early in the morning, chalk talks to get things started, field drills under simulated fire with instructors coaching from the sidelines, after-action reviews to assess the results. Let’s not carry the boot camp metaphor too far—the workshop faculty are experienced, smart, Socratic, funny, responsive, patient and practical. No drill sergeant hats.
Indeed, ACC has recruited for the faculty an all-star team of legal services management wizards from law firms, law departments and consulting firms: Lisa Damon, Seyfarth;Russ Dempsey, United Retirement; Bill Garcia, Thompson Hine; Devdeep Ghosh, Huron;Carla Goldstein, Bank of Montreal; Ken Grady, SeyfarthLean Consulting; Nancy Jessen, Huron Consulting; Pat Lamb, Valorem Law Group; and Rob Lipstein and Kathryn Kirmayer, Crowell & Moring.
How It’s Done
The first day begins with process improvement and process mapping—how to analyze the root causes of problems, how to deconstruct “matters” into steps that can be simplified, eliminated, systematized, outsourced, automated, and measured.
Next is project management. We have a better process, now how do we assure that everyone is on board and rolling down the right track at the right speed? Define the scope of work to be done? And to be not done? How do we estimate and monitor and communicate about progress?
The result can often be a remarkable transformation.
From this …
To this …
[Diagrams by permission of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.]
The second day begins with a lecture on value-based fee structures—from flat to contingent—with specific examples and some sharp war stories to illustrate which structure best fits what situation.
At every stage, the workshop participants—drawn equally from law firms and law departments—divide into teams (sounds like business school, right?) and work together on realistic exercises devised by the faculty. The exercises include: creating a process map for an M&A deal; drafting a project charter, budget and detailed project plan for the deal; structuring and negotiating fee arrangements for corporate and litigation matters; and a comprehensive law department cost reduction.
Teams report back to the full crowd on their findings and recommendations, and although no prizes are handed out, there’s a jovial spirit of competition in the room.
After two hard-working days, the novices are now ready to graduate to the real thing. And they have the faculty’s email addresses and phone numbers, so real-time coaching will be at hand when needed.
ACC offers open workshops as well as private workshops for individual law departments and law firms (who will find that inviting clients is a good thing.) Details from Catherine J. Moynihan at ACC.
Why, one might ask, does Neota Logic, a software company, care about value-based fees? It’s simple.
We say to general counsel, Neota Logic enables you to reduce risks and improve outcomes without increasing headcount or outside counsel fees. We say to law firms, Neota Logic enables you to bill without hours and leverage without associates.
So when general counsel and law firms are still measuring value in hours worked rather than value delivered—inputs rather than outputs—they may not get what Neota Logic offers.
However, as they learn to apply value-based fees in traditional legal work, they learn that Neota Logic applications take the next step in driving value—to true automation of routine legal and compliance problems.
That’s why we are a sponsor of ACC’s Legal Service Management Workshop.