In addition to balancing the demands of their law firm ops and pricing roles (Natasha is the Director of Strategic Pricing & Project Management at Covington & Burling LLP and Jared is the Chief Legal Operations Officer at Barnes & Thornburg LLP), Natasha and Jared are the co-chairs for the 2021 Legal Value Network Conference Experience.
Tell us about how you got into your field.
Natasha: I began my career in commercial finance with General Electric and Merrill Lynch. Given the recession and the changing dynamics of the banking industry in 2008 and 2009, I was looking for a change in pace and an opportunity to work more closely with clients.
After relocating from New York to the DC area, a recruiter suggested that working in law firm finance would be well suited for my background and that I could articulate complex financial concepts to non-finance professionals. Although the role started off as client financial management, it evolved into what is now known as legal pricing, LPM and legal operations.
Jared: I was working on a board of a non-profit organization that had ties to Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, IN. In my former role, I was a banker who underwrote loans to small- and mid-market businesses in Indiana. While on the board for the non-profit and through the bank, I was introduced to many partners at the firm. When an opportunity came up to transition from my current role to something new, I applied for a business development role at Barnes & Thornburg. After understanding more around law firm economics and with my background, I began to ask the firm questions related to pricing and law firm economics, they recognized my curiosity and helped me grow into the role that I have today.
What do you love most about what you do?
Natasha: I enjoy being at the forefront of legal pricing, helping to shape the future of alternative fee arrangements and legal project management. It is exciting and rewarding to find creative pricing solutions for complex legal engagements. I love that no two days are the same, and you never really know what will land on your desk at any given moment. Although the virtual environment has made it a bit more challenging, I love engaging with my colleagues at the firm and our clients every day.
Jared: I love the working attitude of the firm. Lawyers are some of the brightest minds in the world, they challenge you. Working side by side with them has made me strive for greater outputs and opportunities. I also love the autonomy and entrepreneurship of the team. We sit next to the revenue stream for the firm and very closely to the practice of law, we make decisions every day that have a financial impact to the firm, that is rewarding.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing law firms today in their relationship with outside counsel? What do you see as major change/threats in the legal industry?
Natasha: The relationship will continue to evolve and strengthen as the industry starts to rely more heavily on technology and process improvement to drive efficiency and value. While some firms have embraced this change, others will need to adapt to the changing landscape in order to remain competitive. Also, given the current discussions on racial inequality and injustice, there has been an increased focus on diversity and inclusion efforts within law firms and in-house legal departments. They are finding innovative ways to recruit and retain diverse talent, as well as staff engagements with diverse lawyers.
Jared: I think there is a real communication gap between buyers and sellers, any way that can be shrunk would have a huge impact on the industry as a whole. Other players are entering the space as well with what is happening with Rule 5.4. That competition should breed innovation for law firms. Not necessarily technology innovation (although that will happen), but new models of capturing revenue and market share. At the end, buyers win but will need to be cautious and astute in ‘new law’ to make effective changes for their organization.
How has your role changed as a result of the pandemic?
Natasha: While my role has largely remained the same as it was prior to the pandemic, the prioritization and allocation of how I spend my time has shifted significantly. There has been an emphasis on partnering with clients facing economic hardship to help them manage their internal budgets in a cost-effective manner while still maintaining exceptional quality legal service. I also spend a lot of time finding ways to motivate and train my team in a virtual environment.
Jared: We have had more internal focus on process improvement and introspection during this time. We had various waves of client discount conversations based on the pandemic, but that has more or less come to a halt. In 2021, we have to rethink how we connect with groups across the firm. There is a real emphasis on setting that as a top priority for 2021 for both internal and external clients.
Tell us about why you wanted to become conference chair.
Natasha: I have a strong appreciation for the members of the LVN board and was humbled by the opportunity to co-chair their inaugural conference. Candidly, when I was initially presented with the opportunity, my first instinct was to turn it down. Like many others, I have a demanding career, small children that are learning remotely this school year, and a host of other balls that I am juggling. However, I have learned over the years to never turn down an opportunity that will help you get out of your comfort zone while also serving others.
Jared: At some point in the journey in any industry, knowledge and sharing that knowledge is extremely valuable to the constituents of that industry. The legal ops/value suppliers are a maturing function in many client and law firms. Transferring that knowledge is paramount to the success of all. In other words, a rising tide lifts all ships.
What can attendees look forward to when it comes to the conference?
Natasha: Although planning this conference will be challenging given the uncertainties of tomorrow, Jared and I look forward to providing exceptional content and networking opportunities for our peers, service providers and clients. Whether the conference is in-person, virtual or a hybrid of the two, we are committed to making this conference one that you won't want to miss!
Jared: An open environment welcome to all who serve this industry vertical. A place to connect for best in class content and networking opportunities across the ecosystem. We are relentlessly pursuing the idea of inclusivity for the LVN conference where any/all parties engaged in the value chain can come and learn.
Tell us a fun or surprising fact about yourself.
Natasha: As a military dependent, I spent the first 15 years of my life living in southern Germany. That experience gave me a global perspective on the importance of celebrating diversity and trying new things.
Jared: I love to hike and be outdoors and spend time with my family and friends. Trying to cross off all the National Parks in the United States is on the bucket list. I can also make the world’s greatest cat noise that has to be heard to be believed.