Bloomberg Big Law Business Summit - re-cap


Last week, Bloomberg BNA launched its inaugural “Big Law Business Summit” in New York.  Below is a collection of key points tweeted from the event, along with links to summaries and interviews.  Many points are relevant to smaller firms, not just "big law."  To view the thread on Twitter, follow #BigLawSummit.  (My comments appear occasionally below inside parentheses.)

Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S. Dist. Ct. for SDNY spoke on Technology and Law:

(My take-aways: learn how to differentiate through creative use of visual mediums (PowerPoint/Prezi and others like video posted to a social media profile), learn to use visual, leverage those who can help you with these tools. Also, Scheindlin’s quote, “you’re always a lawyer and you’re going to be dependent (on technologists)” means you must become better at screening talent and knowing what to screen for (current skills/anticipated technology/skills)  - in order for you to become more efficient.)
“Tech, vendors, + consultants are becoming part of eDiscovery + may even blur what practice of law means.” ~ Judge Scheindlin

Cheaper isn’t better or faster, but better and faster can often turn into cheaper.
— @Stephen_Poor MP, @SeyfarthShawLLP

Summary of the panel on New Law Firm Models;

(My takeaways:  Interesting to hear an MP (Terrence Truax of Jenner & Block) acknowledge the competing desires: one, toward progress/new technology and two, the resistance to proposals for new tech, new options, change.  I have seen this tug of war between desired change and status quo satisfaction (i.e. resistance to change) inside firms for years.  However, now – a few more attorneys, who realize the need to embrace and leverage social and digital plus related analytics, are making headway and are approving projects.  Several other good points that stand on their own in the panel summary linked above.)

“We judge ourselves now not by effort, but by results.” ~ Seth Zachary, Paul Hasting Chairman.  (My add:  That’s an obvious objective – yet worth closer study, and…application.)

INSIDE COUNSEL vs Outside Counsel
Last month, I provided a graphic outlining what I predict as sources of rising pressure affecting the law firm budget.  Another area of pressure:  The growing strength/capacity of in-house counsel to prefer handling matters internally before engaging outside counsel.  This is the link to the Big Law Business Summit panel on In-House Law Departments; several comments related to In-House are below: 

  • There is a lack of perspective from law firm lawyers as to what challenges in-house lawyers. David Levine @bloomberg GC, panel moderator.
  • Sabine Chalmers, Chief Legal Anheuser-Busch In Bev, has moved from 50/50 inside versus outside counsel spend to 60/40.
  • We are doing far more work internally, says Christa D'Alimonte from @viacom
  • Yet, Ford Motor Co’s David Leitch noted: Our legal dept. has gone from 325 lawyers when I joined 10 years ago to around 200 now – part of a move toward doing less, focusing on the important.
  • Sabine Chalmers, @AnheurserBusch CLO: “Lawyers sit on all company management teams”
  • @Akin_Gump chair: continuous meetings with lawyers helps keep firm stable (My add: include marketing/bus dev in those periodic talks (don’t post-pone as less relevant).  Just like integrating Appellate team with Trial discussions, before trial concludes – integrating marketing will expedite any projects and may expand discussion/ideas.)
  • "We have an obligation of communicating what we expect of our service providers." Cliff Dutton of @AIGInsurance (My add:  Thus, imperative for attorneys to prepare to draw out information to promote communication from in-house.)
  • Over a few years, @GSK has moved from using 3% value-based fee arrangements to 83%, says Bob Harchut, associate GC.
  • Pricing:  @pwoldow (Pamela Woldow, Master Coach & attorney): Great point regarding pricing: "If we knew more, clients would name the price, not conduct auctions."
  • Fidelity GC: Don't take 4 depos if 2 suffice. Lawyers must consider cost, not just outcome, do only the necessary.
  • Steven Reich of @DeutscheBank emphasized that a global megafirm can be helpful for a multi-jurisdictional case because the variety of data privacy restrictions can complicate doc review.
  • Tom Perrelli of @JennerBlockLLP says clients value high-quality lawyers managing a case above having lawyers all over the globe.
  • GC of @Colgate says she views her role as a "coach" in managing legal team in multi-jurisdictional legal matters
  • @JPMorganChase_ Christina Dugger looks for subject matter experts when choosing firms & key jurisdictions UK, Asia, NY & DC  (My add:  Seth Zachary of Paul Hastings said emphasize expanded practice, conversely this spring there has been an emphasis for attorneys to focus their areas of expertise.  Dugger’s point underscrose this.  It has long been a struggle for attorneys who want to add every legal experience into their kitchen-sink bio, though when a prospect considers an attorney with a broad range versus someone who appears to have a deep specialty in the area of present need…whom to you think they select?)
  • "You can see in the bills where collaboration may or not be happening." says GC of @Colgate
  • If we had better metrics re outcomes, then we'd have better data on value of collaboration + using premium firms. Point by @ronfriedmann
  • "Every issue has a context" says @Colgate GC on why communicating company-wide legal issues w lawyer is important.  (My comment:  And, outside counsel should delve into such questions for context.)
  • Managing complexity in most efficient way- most productive way IS collaboration @Colgate CLO Jennifer Daniels
  • Inefficiency is big reason why law firms don't collaborate, says Heidi Gardner of @Harvard_Law
  • Ann Klee, VP Global Operations at GE gave the keynote:  “Our outside counsel cost is increasing at a faster rate than the rate of inflation…for most of what we do, there are advantages in using regional firms.”

The Case for Collaboration

  • Faith Gay of Quinn Emanuel pointed out that Millennial attorneys are not (used to being) silo'd, they think solo work is boring & are social - they demand collaboration.  (My add:  Could Millennials bring what marketers have emphasized for years: the value of collaboration, the insights gained from collaboration?  Could Millennials be the key to breaking down silos?  I saw cross-marketing/collaboration succeed at several firms, not the least of which was an AmLaw 100 firm, where an office was silo’d (poor attorney communication) which fractured collaboration efforts and adversely impacted culture beyond the walls of that office.  As the attorneys met regularly and discussed common clients and contacts, networking plans developed resulting in new business – and a more collegial culture.)
  • Barbara Becker of @GibsonDunn: our modified lockstep encourages partners to bring in their colleagues instead of hoarding.
  • VP Assoc GC @GSK wants more efficiency at law firms. Growing trend of companies seeking more cost effective legal services.
  • Efficiency:  Kim Koopersmith, chair of @akin_gump says their firm has built an internal Facebook where lawyers can check out each other's work.  She added that AG "hired a full-time Chief Pricing Officer to help clients achieve value. 
  • Efficiency opportunity exists but Martha Mazzone, SVP deputy GC @Fidelity says large obstacle to change is lack of humility (My add:  As we are in an election cycle, I will mention that social media went bonkers recently when a candidate appeared to demonstrate a lack of humility.  A lack of humility is old-school practice in today’s service-oriented world.  Recommended:  The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck.)
  • "I don't think the structure of an eat-what-you-kill culture" leads to favorable client results, says @Cravath's Goldstein
  • "I don't think firms can survive if they aren't collaborative." Faith Gay of Quinn Emanuel.

The Corporate World could teach Big Law firms how to manage and cultivate attorneys.
— @Ford GC, David Leitch
A lawyer who employs more entrepreneurial approaches to legal practice and client service will find greater success, faster.
— Teresa Martin, for the past 12 years

Privacy and Cyber-Security were addressed in a breakout and as a lunch keynote.  The breakout session with Rajesh De, former GC of NSA, and Mayer Borwn head of privacy & security practice, is captured here.  I am looking for the summary of  the keynote from Rodge Cohen, senior chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell, who discussed in part the importance of greater attention to cyber security for banking and financial institutions, for law firms, and the country.
Law firms aren't vendors; they're trusted with your secrets; #DataSecurity is paramount. ~ Adam Storch @mmc_global

Parting Thoughts:
‘“Is The way that has always been done by law firms really the best way?” ~ Dick DeScherer, CLO, Bloomberg LP
@Aderant posted:  Many lawyers believe that non-lawyers are simply not as smart and can't tell lawyers how to work better.  (My add:  Yes, I have seen this, I have experienced it - though I saw more of this division in the past.  Today, more lawyers and firms are starting to realize that leveraging outside brainpower makes the attorney/firm stronger – rises all boats.  Firms are also starting to demonstrate a greater recognition of the value of team members from marketing, technology, pricing – and how that value impacts the client relationship.

Special thanks for live tweets to @RonFriedmann, @LeopardSolution, @BigLawBiz, @DavidPeikin, @alapiano

Additional curation by The Lexblog Network:

Prism Legal, @RonFriedmann:

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