Nowadays, GC wise to consider innovative cost-cutting


As the economy continues

to soften, businesses

of all stripes are

being forced to cut costs

and find ways to ensure

their stability and

growth. No department

is immune. This article

focuses on the innovative

ways some corporate

law departments

are slashing expenses,

improving efficiencies

and using technology

to rewrite the way they

do business.

Senior corporate

counsel attendees at a

recent Association of Corporate Counsel

event ranked the increasing cost of outside

counsel, the economic downturn and globalization

as their most-pressing concerns. You

may think you know all the tricks for cutting

costs, but several in-house counsel have

found new ways to reduce expenses, some of

which did not even exist just a few years ago.

These include developing high-tech solutions

for paper-intensive and time-consuming

transactions, adopting digital invoices,

auditing the legal department’s services and

implementing alternative billing procedures

for all outside counsel.

Find common ground

As more pressure is put on law firms to

increase their billables and law departments

are simultaneously challenged to curb

expenses, working on projects as a team can

end up benefiting both. For instance, how

about turning a technology problem over to

your outside counsel? Law firms generally

have more leeway when it comes to paying

for high-tech improvements and upgrades,

so why not ask them to design and/or purchase

systems that will streamline some of

your key procedures?

MarkChandler,Cisco’s senior vice president

and general counsel, did just that when he

asked Orrick to build a corporate secretarial

tool. He told Orrick if they could reduce the

amount he was spending on corporate secretarial

fees by 20 percent, they could have all the

work. The caveat: The system had to be automated

and designed in such away that it could

be utilized by other companies and law firms.

Cisco provided the corporate requirements

and collaborated with Orrick’s information

technology and business departments. “The

application is used to track Cisco’s corporate

registrations and other governance activities

related to the legal entities in Cisco’s global

family,” explains Steve Harmon, Cisco’s

director of legal services. “The ability to use a

single interface to monitor our obligations,

produce reports and seamlessly obtain

approvals fromall related internal parties creates

material operational efficiencies, eliminates

payments for registrations that are no

longer necessary and ensures the timely payment

of fees.”

Automation is your friend

Cisco took a proactive approach when it

came to increasing the efficiency of document

management, too. Under Chandler’s

watch, the company has automated the handling

of non-disclosure agreements, contract

renewals, press release approvals and patent

applications. Launched in 2005, the self-service

NDA tool enables Cisco clients to create

NDAs with minimal involvement from

legal. The company’s NDA repository now

contains more than 20,000 records, with a

run-rate of more than 200 new NDAs a

month. “We have saved money and

processed thousands of NDAs via this tool

that otherwise would have had to be done

manually,” notes Chandler.

The company’s electronic contract renewal

tool (a.k.a. Click Accept) has eliminated

the need for physical signatures on all standard

contracts. In fiscal year 2005, only 3 percent

of the company’s annual contract

renewals with its 500 system integrator partners

were completed electronically; today

the rate is more than 81 percent. Chandler

says this has helped free up the legal team’s

time for more important tasks.

Volvo Group North America is also taking

advantage of automation. Outside law firms

are encouraged to communicate with and

invoice Volvo digitally.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Andrea Worland, Lateral One Legal Search | Attorney Advertising

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Lateral One Legal Search on:

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