The 19 Metrics that Matter in Delivering Legal Service

The use of metrics can be an extremely powerful way to evaluate and manage performance.  The key to creating a meaningful performance measurement program is to identify a manageable set of measures and metrics that align to current objectives as well as capabilities.  

Read More

Elizabeth Brooks Joins Nimble Launching Its Human Resources Practice

July 21, 2017 (CLEVELAND, OH) - Nimble Services is pleased to announce the launch of its Human Resource focused consulting services with the addition of Elizabeth Brooks, the former Director of Human Resources at Swagelok. Elizabeth will both lead operations and develop the human resource practice at Nimble.  The HR offering will include coaching,  professional development programs and consulting on talent management processes like hiring, high potential development, succession planning and culture management.   

Beginning in Fall 2017, Nimble will launch a series of separate professional development groups for women, millennials, and lawyers.  Additionally, look for an upcoming Nimble Forum in November 2017 focusing on professional development trends in the legal industry, hiring process, and developing emotional intelligence.  For more information on these programs please contact Elizabeth at ElizabethBrooks@nimbleconsultingservices.com. 

Elizabeth Brooks is an executive with over 16 years of experience in HR, talent management, process improvement and technology.  She has taken on roles of increasing responsibility within organizations including Swagelok, Precision Castparts, and Eaton Corporation. She is known for quickly mastering complex business scenarios and developing creative solutions to address them. This unique combination of skills and experiences allows her to ensure that people are a strategic differentiator for Nimble Services and its clients. 

“Joining Nimble is an exciting step for me.  We are creating value for our clients in a way that will positively impact both profitability and the happiness of their people.   I see amazing opportunities for the future,” says Elizabeth.  

Nimble Services brings business acumen to organizations as we revolutionize how Legal and Human Resources work gets done.  Key services include: operational efficiency assessments, legal technology selection and implementation, pricing strategies, talent management process consulting, professional development programs, and part-time General Counsel or HR Director roles.

Have Law Firms Failed to Anticipate Cord-Cutting?

I was listening recently to a fascinating podcast about "The Evolution of ESPN" on The Ringer .  In the discussion, Bill Simmons, relayed that in 2013, ESPN had no idea or appreciation for the impact of Cord-Cutting and that Cord-Cutting was a threat to their business model.  And prior to 2014, you never heard Disney, ESPN, or Wall Street talking about "subs" (subscribers).  But that's all you hear about now when discussing ESPN and Cord-Cutting.  This had me wondering, have law firms failed to anticipate the impact of alternative legal service providers?

Mark Cohen recently wrote in his article entitled The Legal Industry is Undergoing More than a 'Dance Around Change', "There's a new buy/sell dynamic; legal consumers are themselves re-engineering the delivery of legal services."

He went on further to write:

"This transformation has occurred in no small part because as businesses became more complex, the alignment of in-house counsel with the enterprise became even more crucial.  Corporate counsel differ from their law firm counterparts because they are both defenders of and business partners with the enterprise--law firms tend to play defense only.  The alignment of elite service providers with customers also differs from firms.  The top service providers are transparent, digitized (e.g. always accessible and agile), metric drive, result-oriented, tech and process-enabled, and efficient.  This is not the traditional law firm/client dynamic, either."

The transformation has also occurred due to technology and ease of access to information.  Clients used to rarely question how law firms delivered legal services because it was often conducted in a black box, shrouded with mystery and Latin.  That is not the case anymore.   

Cutting the Cord is akin to unbundling legal service delivery from law firms to alternative legal service providers.  Managed services run by alternative legal service providers on behalf of their clients is growing.  Law departments are pairing law firms with alternative legal service providers in their supply chains.  We recently wrote about the results of our own 2017 Legal Market Survey where law departments strongly indicated they wanted to see law firms working with alternative legal service providers. 

While law firms may continue to resist this change, they may find themselves in the same place as ESPN.  Scrambling to figure out how the industry changed around them due in large part to client demand and technology.

The New Legal Service Delivery Paradigm

Client dissatisfaction has brought about the rise of law departments and alternative legal service providers.  Law firms have been slow to recognize this trend and take actions other than cutting costs to change.  Law departments and alternative legal service providers will continue to take market share from law firms.  In order to survive and grow, law firms will have to change the way that they deliver legal services.  As Mark Cohen writes in "Are Law Firms Becoming Obsolete":

"The practice of law has morphed into the delivery of legal services that requires legal, technological, and process/project management expertise. All but a handful of firms have failed to navigate the transition to delivering legal services. Law remains their stock in trade, and technology and process are laggards. Worse still, IT and operations professionals are accorded second-class status within firms. In contrast, in-house legal departments and legal service providers are not only melding legal, IT, and process expertise, but they are also becoming enmeshed in their clients’ (customers’) business in ways that law firms do not. This goes to the heart of why law firms are becoming extinct: they have failed to become integrated components in solving clients’ business challenges."

 

4 Reasons Why Legal Project Management Works

Legal project management is the application of project management concepts to the control and management of legal cases or transactional matters.  These principles have been used by multiple other professional service providers for many years.  For decades, lawyers have loosely sketched out plans for matters but rarely put together detailed plans for end-to-end delivery of legal service on matters.  As corporate clients have adopted project management to most, if not all, of their internal projects they are increasingly demanding legal project management from their law departments and external legal service providers. 

Quite simply, legal project management is the formal and deliberate integration of planning, budgeting, and communication.  It results in transparency for both the client and the legal service provider from the outset of the legal matter.  Communication between and expectations of both parties is clear and written down in the Project Plan.

The typical Project Plan will be agreed to between the parties and will contain:

1. Summary of the Project

2. Goals of the Project

3. Scope of the Project

4. Out of Scope - As can often happen on legal matters out of scope tasks can be undertaken either because the client requests it or the legal service providers in their quest to provide a thorough analysis or work product think certain tasks should be undertaken. 

5. Key Assumptions - These are assumptions the parties made when putting together the plan.  Things could change in the future and those could impact the deliverables, the timeline, the staffing, or even the scope.  But this is a great example of how expectations are managed at the outset.

6.  Risks - what are possible obstacles to accomplishing the Project Goals?

7. Deliverables - what is the legal service provider going to deliver?

8. Timeline - what are the key dates for deliverables and communications/updates?

9. Participants - Resource Planning.  Who are all of the people necessary to accomplish the Project Goals?  How often are they needed?  Who will manage the project?  Who will do the work for each task?  Who will be consulted and who will be informed?

10. Costs - Here's where the planning and assumptions of the above help legal service providers arrive at the costs of the project.  It could be fixed fee.  It could be part fixed fee and part hourly rate.  It could be just hourly rates. 

Legal project management is a great tool to deliver efficient legal services and it will only continue to grow as more corporate clients demand it and more legal service providers understand and see the value it provides to their clients.

Legal project management can appear to be a daunting task at the outset of a legal matter but don't OVERTHINK it.  You can keep it simple as you try it out and improve upon your own process as you apply these concepts to additional matters. 

Here are the 4 reasons why legal project management works:

1. Improved communication, transparency and, ultimately, trust between the parties.  This all leads to improved client satisfaction.

2. Better expectation management - fewer surprises (hopefully, none!)

3. Cost certainty and cost containment for law departments.  The transparent process allows for significant improvement in budgeting for legal costs.

4. Profitable fixed cost legal services for law firms.  The more frequently legal project management is used by law firms the easier and easier it becomes for law firms to profitability price their legal services with precision.  Fewer write-offs, better staffing and knowledge management to perform the work repeatedly with less effort.

 

4 Reasons Why U.S. Legal Costs are Significantly Higher Than the Rest of the World

U.S. Companies spend 166% more on legal services per dollar of revenue than companies outside of the U.S., according to research by Acritas and as reported by Jennifer Williams-Alvarez of Corporate Counsel.  See http://www.corpcounsel.com/home/id=1202787039745/US-Companies-Are-Biggest-Spenders-on-Legal-Services-Globally?mcode=1202617073467&curindex=2

 

In addition, Acritas provided some key legal spend benchmarks:

  • Median legal spend at U.S. Companies is 0.40% of revenue.

  • Median legal spend at Companies in the rest of the world is 0.15% of revenue.

  • Median legal spend in the real estate industry is 0.89% of revenue.

  • Median legal spend in the banking industry is 0.60% of revenue.

  • Median legal spend in the tech industry is 0.45% of revenue.

Why is Legal Spend in the U.S. so much higher than the Rest of the World?  Here are 4 leading reasons why:

  1. In general, U.S. law firms charge higher hourly rates than law firms outside the U.S.

  2. The compensation for both in-house and external lawyers are generally higher in the U.S.

  3. There is more widespread use of the hourly rate in the U.S. than in the rest of the world.

  4. The U.S. is much more litigious market and there is greater regulatory oversight.

What can companies and law departments do to drive more value from their legal spend?

  • Because it can be difficult to find sufficient time to step back and look at this, more and more companies and law departments are using legal consultants to review and recommend new approaches, or creating legal operations roles, or both.

  • Work with your key legal service providers to develop cost certainty for higher repeatable legal work provided and move away from the billable hour for those types of services.

  • Use a legal consultant to review the management of your litigation portfolio.  Can it be bundled and offered to 1 law firm for more cost certain pricing?  Can there be bonus fees for law firms if certain types of litigation matters if a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment is awarded in your favor?  Can discovery costs be managed better?

  • Revise all of your form contracts with suppliers and customers to include mandatory mediation to try to resolve disputes.  In our experience, many contract related disputes can be resolved through mediation - saving both parties significant legal costs.  

Much more value can be derived from spending on preventative pro-active legal services.  Once you are reacting to a legal issue that arises, you are "chasing your tail" and will likely end up spending significantly more on legal services.

Nimble 2017 Legal Services Outlook Survey Results

In January 2017, we conducted a short survey on the 2017 outlook for the legal services market.  Participation included a wide variety of perspectives including corporate legal departments and law firms of all sizes from both inside and outside the U.S.  The responses validated many opportunities for change and highlighted both alignment and disconnects between law firms and their corporate customers.

Click here for the Nimble 2017 Legal Services Outlook Survey Results.

 

 

 

 

The 7 Features You Need in a Contract Management System

Law departments are increasingly expected to be business partners, collaborating with executives and other functional experts to drive results.  Often times, the legal function struggles (or doesn't know where to begin) to develop metrics and data to provide business related legal intelligence to its business partners.  One of the quick ways for law departments to provide valuable data to its business partners is to implement a Contract Management System, whether licensing it directly or working with a service provider that uses one currently.

The legal world has been slow to embrace technology to help solve business problems.  For example, the contract.  Even some of the most sophisticated organizations are still creating and working with contracts in Microsoft Word.  Sometimes using an agreement from the last deal that has specific negotiated provisions for that last deal that have nothing to do with the current one.  Email remains the primary means of delivery and sometimes...even storage of the contract.  See "The Future of Legal Work" by Constantine Limberakis of Corporate Counsel.

Great!  Let's go get a Contract Management System!

If only it were that easy.  There are no shortage of Contract Management System or Contract Lifecycle Management System providers.  Each solution comes with its positives and negatives.  Some charge you for storage.  Some charge per user.  Some charge for you to invite third party collaborators to use the system (such as the other party to the contract).  Some charge by number of contracts.  It's difficult to do an apples to apples comparison. 

And while there are all of those (and many more) issues to review and identify, you also need to know what is the current end-to-end process internally for initiating, drafting, negotiating, executing, storing and analyzing contracts.  Who touches these contracts in one way or another?  Who will want access later?  What other information systems are currently being used and will your functional business partners (HR, Finance, Business Development, Operations, etc.) want to pull data from the Contract Management System into the systems that they use?

7 Key Contract Management System Features

With all of that said, here are 7 features that should be a part of any Contract Management System you select:

1. Multiparty Collaboration - You want a system that allows the other party to the contract to access the contract you're negotiating within your system.  You also may want access for advisors like lawyers and accountants. 

2. Electronic Signature - Why go to all this effort if the contracts can't be signed electronically within the system?  You might as well go back to faxing. 

3. Workflow Management - An excellent feature that provides transparency about where the real bottlenecks in the process are.

4. Contract Compliance - Can you audit who made what changes and when?  Also great for enforcement of terms.

5. Contract Storage - Get away from shared drives, external hard drives and your email inbox for contract storage.  There's nothing worse than the scramble to find "anyone that has a copy of that contract from 5 years ago" and it's a random redline that someone found lingering in their email inbox.  The accessibility for all users is also great.

6. Analytics and Data - Want to know how long it takes your form supply agreement to get negotiated and signed on average?  Most Contract Management systems will arm you with that data.  Identify what data you'd like to have and use that to weed out some of the providers that are unable to deliver.

7. Integrations - Any Contract Management System that you are considering should integrate easily (at no additional cost) with systems like Oracle, SAP, or Salesforce.  You should work with your Information Technology team to identify what other systems you might want your Contract Management System to integrate with.

The right Contract Management System can streamline legal operations significantly, standardize the contract process, and arm the legal team with useful legal business intelligence to share with its functional business partners.

 

Altman Weil's 10 Years of Law Firm Mergers Report

Altman Weil recently released a special report "10 Years of Law Firm Mergers".  Click here for a copy of the report. 

Tons of interesting insight provided by the report, such as:

  • 78% of the acquisitions were of small firms of 2-20 lawyers.  Smaller acquisitions can be done quickly and are a low risk way to buy market share.
  • 49% of the acquisitions in the U.S. were in the South (Florida and Texas mostly) and the Middle Atlantic (New York and Pennsylvania led the way).  Geography is an important dynamic.
  • Since 2013, there have been more than 80 acquisitions per year.  85 acquisitions closed in 2016.