The LVN Council of Luminaries is comprised of veteran thought leaders and pioneers in the business of law community. The objective behind assembling this group is to establish a brain trust of recognized, experienced and progressive leaders who can help interpret developments in the market, provide advice on how to successfully approach and navigate challenges, predict future trends and changes to prepare for, and to participate in targeted special projects to benefit the legal industry as a whole.
The below meeting was conducted with both Council Of Luminaries - LAW FIRM and CLIENT-SIDE groups.
Now that there has been an acknowledgment that legal practice and process management can change, how is it best for firms and clients to initiate blueprinting new ways of engaging together? There seems to be unanimous belief that there are evolutionary activities that will drive change, so how can we avoid both sides waiting for the other to make things happen?
Law Firm Luminary 1 – How do we start driving change? I’m afraid in 6 months it’ll be everyone waiting for the other side to change for them, which is what seemed to happen after 2008. Can we build an engagement plan or collaborative plan or something instead? What can we do?
Client-Side Luminary 1 – We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. We tend to snap back to some old habits very quickly. I really would like to not repeat those. But how willing are law firms to accept disaggregated work? One thing we’ve been doing intentionally over time is separating out parts and pieces of legal work and driving to the most efficient delivery model and using firms for their expertise only. How ready do you think firms are for inserting other market players into the process? We are getting a mixed bag, and we are rewarding those who act accordingly.
Law Firm Luminary 2 – Heck yes, I’m ready to do this. I’m ready to shove it down the throat of every corner of my own firm. The avoidance of change from the last recession is still going on in the rank and file. Today there is very much a mood and mind of change, at least.
Also, if clients are having a problem with the firm, it may be their relationship partner. Every firm has those partners that don’t want to change. Even when I come together with legal ops to do something, I still have to get partners on board. Management/leadership is ready to make change, but many partners are resistant.
Scoping of Engagements
Law Firm Luminary 3 – We have a couple examples where we’re being asked to do this. One common request is a firm serving as regional counsel doing front end work, then reaching out to us for assistance as local counsel. That’s a good example of disaggregation. Sometimes they have asked for a fixed fee, but we can’t do it, unless we as local counsel, know what regional counsel are doing.
Another fixed fee example: in the health care context. We were asked to provide a fixed fee as co-counsel, but we needed to better understand the other firm’s role. So, it’s not only your work you need to quantify and detail, but other firms too.
A bigger example of true disaggregated service: One project we were on had a white shoe firm on strategic work; discrete tasks for our firm, repetitive work, etc.; and local counsel for depositions. Our whole firm might not embrace this, but we’ve had pockets of success.
Client-Side Luminary 1 – It’s an issue here too. We need to be more explicit about the scope of the engagement and the expectations. It takes work on both sides, and training to help our lawyers understand that a little better. There is a lot to do on our side of the fence.
Law Firm Luminary 4 – Some clients have been asking for “virtual firm” proposals; they are looking for firms that have experience collaborating with other firms.
Law Firm Luminary 1 - I was involved with this in the past, with a very big law firm. There was a detailed scope, it really required a lot of front-end scoping. It worked out well, but you needed to have both trust and clarity in place so people know their lanes.
Often there is a lot of uncertainty or perceived risk. If you work with an ALSP partners will say, “they don’t do what we do and if you are requesting/need that you don’t need us.”
Client-Side Luminary 1 – We hear from our lawyers all the time when we are trying to insert non-law firm providers. They say, “but you are not getting the same quality.” When in fact the quality often actually improves.
Law Firm Luminary 5 – If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. Sometimes an ALSP provides better service – but firms try to feed their associates. A lot of this comes down to lawyers not being comfortable working on teams.
Can Project Management Help?
Law Firm Luminary 6– Let me try to summarize the issues we’ve identified
1. Cultural issues
2. Who coordinates/owns project management
3. Empirical on outcomes
4. Liability. Some lawyers think their malpractice is on the line if ALSPs are involved.
Law Firm Luminary 5 – With multi-district litigation, project management is important as some firms are experts in certain areas. When we partner with other firms, each firm has to come to the table. The client can run the process, but you need a willing participant on the law firm side.
Client-Side Luminary 1 – What about combination of having legal project management (LPM) on both law firm and client side? We’ve been doing some studies and understanding that a growing percentage of our lawyers’ and paralegals’ time is coordination tasks around litigation and if we can have the project managers in the firm talk to us, we might be able to drive resolution faster and get better results.
Client-Side Luminary 2– the value in LPM is highest when the clients view them as an extension of their law department and not a resource from the law firm. And when LPMs can push back on either side as necessary. We’ve had the best success when LPM is not just trying to get the work out the door quicker. The value is that you have a sophisticated party trying to help two unsophisticated parties. Having someone control the traffic can be critical.
If a client suggests LPM and the firm pushes back, that’s a big red flag.
Client-Side Luminary 1 – Is anyone aware of any data that speaks to the value of adding these professionals, either in-house or in a law firm setting. Can it be quantified? We look at cycle time - can we capture some of the spend back by introducing cycle time reduction and quantifying that into dollars?
Law Firm Luminary 2 – The challenge you put out has been resolved in e-discovery. It used to be the same old baloney put out by firms: “If you work with that provider you will have quality issues, but over time the market got past all that.” We could look at the e-discovery space. There could be some data on it there. The people who make sure we get everything done on time and on budget are the eDiscovery group. But I have a hard time getting the client to pay for those people.
E-discovery is a proxy for the dynamics now of disaggregated work, allied professionals (LPM included) etc.
Also, incorporating value of the outcome into the consideration of how to leverage LPM could be compelling argument as well—better outcomes are possible when someone is coordinating all of work. Clients can often quantify cost difference, but an outcome-based metric is more sophisticated.
Law Firm Luminary 3 – Are you trying to quantify the impact of LPM vs no LPM?
Client-Side Luminary 1 – I’m trying to find the additive effect.
Law Firm Luminary 3 – we had an opportunity in one of our first LPM projects. We responded to an RFP that LPM would be included as part of delivery of service. We were able to quantity:
-Reduction in cost per matter of approximately 45%,
-The big metric we didn’t anticipate was reduction in duration of cases. There was a prior firm working on this stuff, with no LPM, and when we injected it in, we reduced the duration by 65%
-The outcome piece – I’d love to see that metric. If you are managing more proactively, I’d think your outcomes would be better.
Client-Side Luminary 3 – We keep talking about quality. But does top quality need to be the standard?
Client-Side Luminary 4 – You can’t make mistakes.
Law Firm Luminary 3 – The questions is do you need to gold-plate? It’s doing what is necessary. Low risk work should have a standard of less than perfect quality level.
Client-Side Luminary 5 – Consider paralegals within the law dept. A lot of our paralegals do insourcing work. Are they doing mediocre work? My job is to find the right work with the right provider for this level of work. The issue is matching the skill set/qualifications with the complexity and sophistication level of the work.
Client-Side Luminary 4 – Often over-qualified people can increase risk of routine work because they don’t have the specialty in that level of review. We frequently see better quality from “professional reviewers.”
Client-Side Luminary 5 – One thing I’ve learned, is that I don’t have expert LPM people. But I do have good people on process improvement. So, we are able to work with firms to come up with a structure, which can obviate the need for LPM.
I was dismissive of the Captive ALSP idea, but I’m finding it more appealing, because it puts less stress on our resources. ALSP’s take a lot of administrative time. So we’ve gone a different direction. Looking to work with some firms in some areas and negotiating project-based fee arrangements. We already have relationships with those law firms, so it doesn’t require an additional vendor for us to manage.
Law firm and client pricing/ops pros can cut through the noise and get things done by being frank and practical—this has proven to be hugely beneficial in navigating issues and finding resolution.
Law Firm Luminary 4 – We’ve been trying to problem solve on both sides. We can be on the same team if we can view the relationship as a partnership rather than adversarial.