In the first part of this discussion, the Legal Executive Institute spoke with Dave Curran from Thomson Reuters’ Legal Managed Services about a recent roundtable event entitled Evolution of the Legal Department in Financial Services, hosted by Thomson Reuters, that discussed the unique challenges of legal innovation within financial services companies.
Curran now continues this discussion with a look at some of the legal trends impacting financial services firms.
Legal Executive Institute: What were some of the other aspects brought up by the panel that were reflective of trends in the financial services area?
Dave Curran: One is that lawyers and legal departments have to do a better job of getting metrics around their performance and their contributions to the organization. I describe it as the “tree that didn’t fall” metric, meaning that often the biggest value that lawyers can provide in the company bar none is the disaster that doesn’t happen.
But what happens, is the legal department says, “There’s no way to measure that.” However, I fundamentally disagree; it just takes a different kind of analysis. You have to track data differently, but it can be measured. We discussed a number of ways that people with better visualization skills and better graphics skills can actually help lawyers provide information that’s visually compelling — similar to what their marketing and sales counterparts are able to do — concerning the job that the legal department is doing.
We also talked about the changing attitudes and structures at law firms to accommodate the long-sought changes being asked for by in-house council. It is not, as you know, a new concept that in-house council been trying to get better, sleeker, faster work from law firms. But at the panel, there was a lot of discussion about how law firms are innovating and linking with tech companies, so that the law firms themselves are striving to provide a more efficient work flow and conduct the needed practice management themselves.
One of the biggest complaints between in-house and outside council is “My outside council is very busy. I’ve been asking for this for two days, and I can’t get an answer from them.” That simple problem, but if you multiply it by thousands of interactions, it is a big waste of time and money. Every moment that that an in-house lawyer is waiting for something, or is not getting clear communications from their outside counterparts, it’s a waste of money.
There was a lot of discussion about how law firms are innovating and linking with tech companies, so that the law firms themselves are striving to provide a more efficient work flow and conduct the needed practice management themselves.
We thought overall, that this says a lot about the perceptions and misperceptions of how in-house and outside council view legal process outsourcing (LPOs) firms. Some of the work that’s being done by LPOs is as good or better — and it’s certainly better from a process management standpoint, by far — than anything being done by outside council.
This is something law firms used to own. Now it’s being owned by others.
Legal Executive Institute: I know one other area of great discussion has been collaboration, both within the company and with outside counsel. What that discussed?
Dave Curran: One of themes of my career is I hate silos, and I find so many of them. Even if you’re using the most efficient business model, for example, by using an LPO in addition to your outside counsel, then you’re being inefficient because you also have to engage your outside council because LPOs can’t give legal advice.
There’s a definite gap between progress that’s being made by law firms and other service providers and the perception of what progress is being made by the in-house folks.
Similarly, in the tech space, companies that use a technology provider and don’t include their outside council are making a mistake. We talked about collaboration and triangulation as well as the need to involve multiple constituents, because they’re all on the same project. And, believe it or not, that’s a breakthrough thought. You would think this is pretty common sense, but it doesn’t always happen.
Legal Executive Institute: Returning to the event, what was the one thing you hoped the participants left with?
Dave Curran: I think they left with a more 360-degree view of the ecosystem involving risk and law. They came in with narrow ideas about transactional interaction with outside council, and I think they left with a better sense of the need for a broader view of the ecosystem.
The other takeaway was that there’s a definite gap between progress that’s being made by law firms and other service providers and the perception of what progress is being made by the in-house folks.