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3.30.2021: Council of Luminaries Joint Meeting

The month’s Council of Luminaries Joint meeting kicked off with a discussion around collaborating with the procurement function and led into a discussion of a few data points from the LPPM Survey, both related to communication.

Firm Luminary 1 – At first it was the lawyers and then the procurement people. But they were trying to commoditize the work. They were doing everything in their power to do that. They were on an island – in and also out of legal. A lot of non-attorney - not even in legal ops were doing it. Legal ops were managing it, but the procurement person was managing. It was run by procurement but driven by legal ops.

Firm Luminary 2 – Procurement has been minimized a bit over the past few years.

Firm Luminary 1 – It depends on the camp.

Client Luminary 1 – It depends on the organization. By and large, I think legal ops is becoming the conduit for where deals get done. Procurement is more for third-party providers.

Firm Luminary 1 – When I was in house, my company was at first adverse to working with procurement, then they went to them when legal ops became too expensive. They still had a responsibility to legal. The procurement folks would do the busy work. More like an extra resource for legal ops. They can cost less than legal ops people.

Client Luminary 2 – We have been reliant on lawyers doing a lot of the pricing. That’s what leadership wanted. Over the past year, we’ve been developing more of a relationship with corporate procurement, to help us scale, with boots on the ground in different regions around the world. A local procurement lead can help us instead of a lawyer from HQ. We expect that the relationship should expand to take advantage of those resources.

Firm Luminary 1 - I agree 100%. You’re better being part of the team designing it, rather than having them design it for you.

Firm Luminary 2 – Sort of like on the law firm side, where you have pricing and billing. They are related but can be disconnected. There can be a separation of labor. This seems like it’s happening on the client-side, too.

Firm Luminary 1 – It’s a partnership. I have billing as part of my group, and they are engaged from the beginning to set up the system. They are not even separated now. We are meshed so we can hit the ground running and no lag. If they are involved from the beginning, they become part of the team. But they may try to expand their role.

Client Luminary 2 – Our corporate procurement, which sits in finance, runs all policies for vendors, and we have to liaise to create a different approach for law firms, who are different in terms of not just pricing, but also data security, privacy, and more. Procurement can be an advocate for some things interacting with legal ops

Firms say they make a strong effort to understand the problems clients face

Firm Luminary 2: 94% of firms say strong effort to understand clients’ problems. But 43% of clients say they don’t. This is about seeing around the corner and differentiating. What’s the disconnect and what can we do better?

Firm Luminary 3 – It’s not just about looking around corners. Our problem is that our lawyers love taking the legal issues to the next level and riding in on the white horse to solve the legal issues. But businesses are concerned with much more than just the legal issue. The budget for example. The lawyer can’t know these things unless they ask. So more candid conversation about what is keeping the client up at night would be useful. It might be beyond the legal matter themselves. Lawyers are often more focused on legal issues rather than commercial issues.

Firm Luminary 2 – We have 8-10 principles we are trying to refocus lawyers on. #3 is “we don’t teach law, we help clients find business solutions.” And that’s a driver here. A lot of lawyers look at the legal issue – not what does the client need to contextualize risk or opportunity within the boundaries of the law. This is also where business professionals should be intervening.

Client Luminary 1 – So many times folks at firms say, “how can we get more ingrained with your attorneys?” And Zoom has created that opportunity. A 30-minute online coffee chat can be easier to schedule.

Firm Luminary 1 – I agree if they have a contact. But the problem I see is that attorneys are talking to their peers in the company. For example, a litigator talking to a litigator. In some industries, they are dabbling with things in industries they have not been in like credit card companies are now interfacing with solar energy companies and real estate. So the only connection might be with who started that relationship, and they don’t have a gateway to the rest. And LDOs are not necessarily helping.

Client Luminary 1 – Isn’t that where our role comes in. To broker those relationships?

Firm Luminary 1 – Totally. At my firm, we are trying to leverage legal ops more as a gateway to others in the dept. Firms should be broker this relationship, too.

Client Luminary 2 – Back to the data, I thought the two sides were basically answering different questions. A question for legal ops is “do you make yourself available?” Until I went in-house, I didn’t even really understand how to ask that question.

Firm Luminary 1 - That’s the new part of the dance that we’re doing. There’s been an instance where the nonlawyers can block – but the clients sometimes just want to deal with lawyers

Client Luminary 2 – We are experiencing firms reaching out but it’s rare. We ask to be put in touch with pricing and LPM as well as relationship attorneys. When I was on the law firm side, I would have said that the firm is making this effort. Now that I’m in-house I think it takes on a different meaning on where clients are. A dialog is what’s crucially important. Our firms will sometimes put an emphasis on issues that are happening across our industry, and coming up with solutions that don’t exactly pertain to what we face. It’s because the firm has to be a bit vulnerable and ask questions.

Firm Luminary 4 – I’m confused by the selling process vs the relationships. Firms don’t have dedicated resources for relationships. Should there be account management?

Firm Luminary 1 – I have to do a dance, at my firm because “relationship management” means the relationship partner. Part of my function is to service pricing, but sometimes I wonder why our teams don’t have what seems like basic intelligence. Like that the GC is speaking on a panel. It’s what I’m trying to build at my firm. Firms too often make assumptions on what a certain client is facing based on generalities in an industry vs. listening to what is actually the issue

Firm Luminary 7 – Looking at the data, it’s a core values question. No one is going to say “no.” That’s why it’s at 94%

Firm Luminary 5 – I would have said yes. But legal ops often integrate with teams who are not communicating, and we don’t know. They aren’t necessarily interacting with the lawyers that are putting the best foot forward.

We effectively use technology to improve delivery of legal services

Client Luminary 1 – a lot of firms are investing a lot of technology. But the clients don’t always see it. Are LDOs seeing it? Are firms articulating the value?

Client Luminary 2 – That’s something I’ve not seen much of. Firms are not being proactive in what they are investing in and how it’s meaningful to us. Tech is mentioned in the abstract. It's only a focus is in a pricing discussion, when the firm is using it as a reason to raise prices, but never execution on why it’s meaningful to us.

Client Luminary 1 – isn’t that telling? That you’re doing all this work with tech. but the client says all they are hearing is why it justifies pricing. Translating tech into value is the hard part.

Firm Luminary 1 – It has to do with what the tech is. It’s a bucket situation. Can corporations, when asking for a bid, the firm should represent more evidence to highlight to relationship partners that we need to lead with this stuff more. People are reluctant to take up real estate in the RFP.

Client Luminary 1 – Who is having the conversation?

Firm Luminary 1 – How do we address it? Audits once a year? In the RFPs? What do people want to see?

Firm Luminary 6 – A more fundamental is whether the partner the right person to be talking to a client about tech. Do they understand the full journey and the benefits? Isn’t that someone else who should explain what can be done, how it can be used? My experience is that partners won’t do this sort of thing. It’s not in their sweet spot. Should it be more of a commercial role? Clients can help firms make more compelling claims about technology benefits by engaging in the discussion. But is the partner really the right person to have the conversation re: the tech and benefits? They aren’t the best informed and aren’t always comfortable with it

Firm Luminary 7 – Two of those people are on the call right now. Because there is nobody else to do it. This feels like Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill. You’re always trying to reinvent how services are delivered. Trying to convince marketing that “this needs to be inside this RFP response because this client will care.” And how often is there continued interest? One of my first questions, when I changed firms, was “How many solutions do you actually have in play?” The response was “like 12 over the last 10 years. That’s across 10s of thousands of clients with no idea what the firm’s capabilities are.

Client Luminary 2 – Leveraging tech needs to be part of the engagement. Partner buy-in is relatively minimal. If they will be engaging with clients – and they haven’t bought in. It’s hard for them to continue to sell to in-house lawyers. Institutionalizing the use cases and scaling is where most firms fall flat.

Firm Luminary 4 – What Client Luminary 2 said is critical – The fact is that you have to have these conversations.

Client Luminary 2 – You ask about best practices. When we’ve seen it done well it’s because the firm and the partner pitching the work have done a great job at breaking down the process, then showing the tail of how that tech helps us scale beyond the immediate need. For those that do it well, it’s a combo of pricing and LPPM and also partners. You need the lawyers to be just as well versed in articulating this. When it works well, it’s been the firm and partner breaking down the process is very effective, and showing where the people and technology intersect, where the tech scales, etc.

Firm Luminary 6 – Another fundamental point: Partners understand what this means for them. What I see is there are a lot of NewLaw arms being built up. But there’s an immaturity in law firm moving up that curve. They need to put together proper ways to train the “salespeople” on the real value proposition. They don’t necessarily understand what each product really does.

Firm Luminary 5 – Ten years ago we could go in and put on a great show. But what I’m finding now is clients are more sophisticated. Now even GCs are asking about adoption. There’s greater pressure. I tell my partners, “the RFP and the interview are not the first time we should be thinking about this.”

Client Luminary 1 – There’s a lot of great tech out here. And we get excited, but if the lawyers don’t use it, it doesn’t really matter. Pitching tools and validating adoption are 2 different and important things in client conversations. You can always pitch solutions but follow-through and sustaining message AND usage is important.

Firm Luminary 5 – There’s also sustainability; you can talk about what you’re doing right now, but you have to continue after the selection. You also have to make sure the client understands what you’re doing, at all levels.

Firm Luminary 2 – The lawyers in the law department don’t always understand this so well. That can be where the model falls apart. There are also not good incentives inside the firm. Partners don’t’ want to introduce risk.

Firm Luminary 7 – They are not seeing the other side. They don’t see that clients are much stickier and will have trouble finding another firm. Often the risk is the focus with lawyers in the tech equation vs. the opportunity. Often there no acknowledgment that competitor firms could threaten client relationships because they are leveraging the tech that they’re skeptical of

Client Luminary 2 – I might add that it does involve a delicate dance in terms of the pitch in giving clients options -- i.e., this is what it costs if you (client) utilize the technology, and here is the cost if you continue without the technology (i.e., continue on just human efforts). I've seen this done more with non-law firm pitches, and it can be effective.

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