Harnessing the Power of a Collaborative Legal Ecosystem with Keith Maziarek

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Harnessing the Power of a Collaborative Legal Ecosystem

In this episode of On Record PR, we go on record with Keith Maziarek, Director of Pricing and Legal Project Management at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and an Officer and Board Member of the Legal Value Network.

More About Keith Maziarek

Keith Maziarek is Director of Pricing and Legal Project Management at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and an Officer and Board Member of the Legal Value Network.

In his role at Katten, he is responsible for developing, implementing, and scaling the firm’s formal pricing and legal project management functions. The scope of this position includes both internal and client-facing responsibilities focused on establishing institutional best practices related to strategic pricing, service delivery efficiency, and maximizing client value.

Before joining Katten, Keith served as Senior Director of Client Value for Perkins Coie LLP, where he focused on working closely with the legal operations executives at the firm’s top clients to establish mutually beneficial financial arrangements and collaborative operational processes. Keith’s career in this field began at DLA Piper LLP, where he served as the firm’s first Head of Strategic Pricing. The scope of this position closely mirrored his current work driving transformative change at Katten.

Keith has authored several published articles on the topics of pricing, client value and collaboration, and he speaks regularly at industry conferences. He is a past co-chair of the annual P3 Conference, past co-chair of the Legal Marketing Association’s Client Value Shared Interest Group. He is designated as an Accredited Legal Pricing Professional (ALPP) from the True Value Partnering Institute (TVPI).

Keith holds an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, with majors in Management and Strategy, Managerial Economics, and Analytical Consulting, and a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Can you tell our listeners about Legal Value Network and its genesis?

The Legal Value Network (LVN) was founded by colleagues of mine who were key planning committee members for the P3 conference. We witnessed the momentum building over many years and saw our opportunity to create an organization that would be dedicated to serving the legal community.

I thought that was a reasonable justification. I know we have our own home for what this community has become. Over the years, we thought about it, and we kept having new ideas. About four and a half years ago, at the first conference we were having dinner with the planning committee and we were talking how energizing an experience it was afterward. We were decompressing, and that was where the Legal Value Network was first mentioned. I think we had about 253 and now it’s probably 300-plus people at the P3 conference. The last time it was in-person, it was upwards of 450 people. That’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

We’ve been talking and we’re trying to make the leap to build this home and see if we can create momentum and activity around that. We launched a week literally before the whole world went into lockdown. That changed everything significantly.

However, like everybody else, we had to pivot. We’re trying to continue to put out content on the platform or in a medium that we can obviously be virtual. There are a lot of additional opportunities like initiatives that will help build engagement. We’re having our first roundtable. It’s going to be virtual for this first one, it’s going to be on February 17, which will be an opportunity to engage with people on a one-to-one basis. Obviously, if there’s any chance that we can have the annual conference it will be our crown jewel. A place where everybody can come together like the group’s genesis had been planning originally.

It’s all tentative, but we’re hoping for October. If we can have some level of in-person or possibly, a virtual component, maybe a hybrid, we’ll do that as well. We’re excited about that. Hopefully, that will help build more of that tight-knit fabric that we want for LVN. We look to build upon that and help facilitate some of those more in-person opportunities for engagement and making connections. That’s the vision, overall.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s fantastic. Congratulations! I can imagine what an effort that was to get it launched and then obviously to get momentum the first year during a pandemic was a challenge, I am sure. I see the content coming out and announcements about the great programs you’re having. I am sure that you’re all feeling good about the traction it’s getting. It’s great to hear that the last P3 conference had more than 400 attendees. This very particular focus is something that law firms must be paying attention to and investing in to remain competitive.

What initiatives is LVN offering that are unique and what benefits are they offering to the industry and its participants?

One of the things that we’ve established as part of our mission statement, is uniting the ecosystem. All the stakeholder groups in the ecosystem have equal placement or equal footing for representation within our substance of what we have out there. We didn’t want to have it be a focus where it’s just law firm people, only client legal department operations people, or solely vendors in the industry, such as technology partners or people that are on the consulting side. We want it to be where every stakeholder group can join as a full member and participate in everything we have to offer: the shared voices and the ability to have collaborative solutions, leadership, and idea-sharing that build solutions.

When I was co-chair of the P3 Conference, in 2015 and 2016, I remember we used to have David Cambria come and speak all the time, back when he was at Director of Global Operations – Legal at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). He was one of the few client-side voices that we had. I thought to myself, ‘Everybody comes to his sessions.’ Not only because David’s smart, unique, incredibly entertaining, and engaging, but people come away saying, “I got a lot of great ideas listening to him because it’s the other side of all the conversations we have, and that’s what we need.” I started saying, “We should have more of that representation on the client-side.” That’s a huge piece. We can sit here and talk amongst ourselves on the law firm side about what was annoying, what we think clients wish they did differently, or what we think are opportunities. But unless you’ve got that collaborative, consensus building-approach to developing initiatives, you’re not going to make a whole lot of progress.

One of the unique aspects of the platform that from the inception, we said, this is for everybody, and we want everyone’s engagement. We have these conversations about the initiatives that we want to put together. I mentioned the round tables; those are going to be events that have a specific topic. We’ll offer breakout sessions and have representation from the stakeholder group to discuss the different aspects of the topic. The first one in February is about career paths and what’s happening within the sector. Not only in law firms, but on the legal operation side of clients and vendors and third parties, like alternative legal Service providers (ALSP), all the growth that’s happening and, we want that seat at the table too. We’re trying to nurture those conversations, get a better view of the landscape, how we fit, how we can add more value, and how we can collaborate better. That’s one of the things we’re targeting for the round tables.

One of the other unique things we’ve got on our roadmap is an initiative called LVN Labs. The Lab groups will be cross-functional project groups that will dissect a recognized, defined challenge in the industry in the interactions between law firms and client legal departments. We’ve defined this as something that’s a business challenge. It helps by creating friction and enhances our interactions with each other. Let’s sit down, look at the architecture, the best practices, review process maps to improve workflow, develop templates for the best processes and publish our findings to improve the entire legal community.

There’s another differentiator that we launched during the pandemic; this was the one fortuitous thing about our launches timing, because it gave the perfect runway to introduce the Council of Luminaries. It was an idea that I had while we were planning what we wanted to offer in addition to webinars at our conference. One of the things that occurred to me was you see a lot of the same people who get contacted to author pieces or speak on programs or podcasts. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could take these commonly known industry voices and have them conduct conversations and then publish what those thoughts are anonymously, not ‘so-and-so said this?’ To get these thoughts out there from this group of recognized people whose wisdom is often sought after in the industry would be impressive. We launched that and about a month afterward we were in the dust of the pandemic. We reached out to some of the leading experts whose names and biographies you would certainly recognize and admire. For example on the law firm side Hushmand J. Cott, Chief Strategic Pricing Officer at Covington & Burling LLP; David Cambria, Chief Services Officer at Baker McKenzie; Jae Um, who was Director of Strategic Pricing at Baker McKenzie at the time; Chris Emerson, who was Chief of Legal Operations Solutions at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP at the time; and Cassie Vertovec, Managing Director, Practice Management & Innovation at Paul Hastings.

We wanted to say, here’s a law firm concept and asked what law firms are seeing internally as the pandemic sets in, what are some of the internal economics and operational challenges. Those turned out to be significant conversations. These were engaging conversations that were excellent at helping not only the people on the calls navigate the disruption of everything globally, let alone the industry. Afterwards, we published all the notes and shared them online so that the broader industry would benefit from what others are seeing or thinking. Ideas they had or challenges they were facing and not feeling they’re alone in that. It showed us that the Council of Luminaries is a great vehicle.

The last concept is we were doing an annual survey that we’re in the final stages of the summary report now. What we hope to gain is a balanced ecosystem perspective. But we partnered with Brad Blickstein, principal at Blickstein Group. They survey the legal department operations annually. He coauthors it every year with Dave Cambria, who is the godfather of the legal operations movement on the client-side. Brad’s been an incredible advocate and partner for LVN. We said, “you’ve been doing this client-side, for a very long time. Wouldn’t it be great instead of just having another law firm survey on pricing, and take the temperature of the law firm side, and have related questions that line up directly with the ones you asked for on the client-side?” That would help us identify where there’s collective points and shared perspectives that we don’t currently recognize. Where there’s friction, there’s opportunity to foster the conversation so we can overcome those business issues.

This is unique because there is no other resource in the industry that lines up directly:

  • What do clients think?
  • What do law firms think?
  • What do we do with this information?
  • What does it tell us?
  • What might this help us solve?

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I can’t wait to see the survey. I think this information will be game-changing for our industry. I appreciate the approach of a collaborative ecosystem. I think you can ask professionals at any law firm in any department, and probably most companies, what is one of the biggest hurdles for success, and likely you’ll hear the answer is “silos” or “segmentation.” Providing a forum and an opportunity for all departments, positions, and executives to come together, have open dialogue about challenges and trends facilitate conversations that don’t happen every day within those organizations. I’m excited to follow the work that your organization’s doing and to see what comes out of these efforts because I think it’s going to be industry changing for everyone involved.

Keith Maziarek: We hope so. That’s what we want to do. It is certainly a novel approach, but we want everybody to work together and start coming up with solutions. It’s not good in an industry that’s in the midst of a change and now with the pandemic, the transformation is progressing rapidly. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of ongoing frustration if everything is one-sided.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I think that we all benefit from the progress that we can achieve together. It’s only going to make our positions advance further and work that we all do better if we can break down those silos. To have a forum where we have open dialogue with all parties represented, not just a brain trust of people in similar position, is an excellent opportunity to learn and grow and help the industry.

You mentioned the current climate. Everybody knows what’s going on right now in the world, but what are we hearing from General Counsel regarding internal cost pressures and the need to have increased budget certainty and decrease spending, at least in the short term.

In this current climate, why do you think it’s important for clients and firms to better understand pricing and project management to find win-win solutions as they partner together?

There are a couple of common themes or trends coming through in my interactions with clients and conversations with law firm friends and colleagues. I try to be diplomatic. I know from talking to my friends on the client-side, that there are many firms that are not necessarily best in terms of commercial approaches to developing mutually beneficial solutions to challenges. This is not an accusation of clients but they can understand and respect the corporate strategies or the policies that get put in place around budget, particularly at a fundamental level in the legal department.

I understand if I was on a board of directors looking at the operating budget, and I see why is this legal app so much? Can I squeeze a couple of percentage reductions out of that? There’s a spectrum of sophistication in terms of tactics used to extract savings. I like to think of it as rationalizing the budget. There are some things you should spend money on because they’re worth it and other things you don’t spend money on because they’re not worth it.

Some clients take the approach to treat everything equally and say we’re going to give you a huge discount number and I’m still going to buy everything by the hour. Often, despite saying we would love alternative fee arrangement proposals we don’t know how to buy, or we don’t know how to evaluate to make the decisions. So, we’re just going to treat everything the same. That’s tricky because I think that it creates different incentives than maybe are ideal for the client. That can have unforeseen negative externalities that you’re not projecting when you make that choice. It’s easy, and it can work to some extent. However, for example, if you’ve got high-risk, bet-the-company litigation work, which is this very specialized niche work, and you’re price sensitive, you decide you won’t pay more than a specific amount for a partner for this kind of work. But you need a partner who charges more and it could avoid all kinds of expense. From not doing the work as efficiently or effectively or doing it to this quality standard that you need. You don’t want to end up paying fines or penalties– it is not the most long-term sustainable way to approach that discussion.

All that is to say is the best way for clients and firms to navigate this time when there is this budget scrutiny, which is completely justified, it’s best to collaborate. I say this all the time, but it’s so true. It sounds cliche, but I believe in it. There needs to be communication, transparency, and consensus. If you have those discussions and each side understands what the other’s priorities are or what might fit, what might work and what won’t, you could easily navigate what you will have as mutually beneficial outcomes. It also allows us to identify what areas don’t match or find we’re not the best fit for that, or I have an idea of how you could accomplish this.

I think there’s a lot of opportunities and many options that both sides must work on to help the other succeed. It’s just a matter of putting your cards on the table and navigate this together to make sure it’s an open, trusting relationship.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Open and honest conversations do a lot for business success and mitigating issues that could come up along the way if not addressed and talked about in a forthcoming way.

In addition to the critical communication component, are there any other keys to success for clients and firms to navigate financial and operational challenges so that they can have a productive working relationship?

I would say that the keys to success are understanding metrics and being transparent. . It is understanding what the other side is measuring. What is it that you’re using to measure success or to determine if something is successful or beneficial or not? Does that line up with the things that we’re looking at? How can we model services on the law firm side that are going to correlate with those metrics? Can we ensure that not only are we doing good things by generating value, but also validating it for score-carding or valuations. Then go back to the CFO and show what was spent of budget, and give the cost avoidance numbers.

We want to be sure we protected these business lines from any other revenue loss. We can do this by understanding what the things are that we agree on and what those metrics are. This holds a lot of value for many law firms and their clients who have enhanced the collaborative legal ecosystem.

Are there models available for benchmarking metrics for a law firm-client-relationship? I’m asking specifically, because I can imagine that if people hear “metrics,” they may not know where to start if they’re not already tracking metrics. Is there a resource you would recommend listeners look to if they’re looking for more information on benchmarking and metrics?

There isn’t one central, standardized repository of what metrics matter that is ubiquitous in the industry. I don’t know of a good metrics 101, but there are plenty of articles and books that speak to what each stakeholder group finds essential, and you can glean it from those, but there’s not a standard manual.

I’ll give a quick plug to David Cunningham, Chief Information Officer at Winston & Strawn, the founder of Legal Metrics and the Legal Metrics Initiative. They’ve looked to conquer the diversity and inclusion measurement and evaluation realm, which is excellent.

Dave reached out to LVN, saying “When we moved to value metrics, I want you to own that and collaborate with us on that and in some way, be instrumental in helping guide that effort.” We’ve been interested in as well. But right now, there isn’t that standard unit of measure that you would look at these five things on a dashboard that clients will understand firms measure.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I was asking because I know that these types of dashboards and metrics comparisons must be customized based on many critical components such as the client relationship and the type of work. I just was curious to know if people were listening and thinking, “Wow, we don’t do any of that and I wouldn’t know where to start.” Maybe, it’s a piece of content we need to create for the industry.

Keith Maziarek: Hopefully, that will come out of the Lab’s initiatives and things such as basic legal metrics and make sure that’s what it focused on, but they haven’t gotten to that level yet. You can find dashboards for every role at a stakeholder group within the different organizations, but they do not measure the same thing.

We know if we can measure these things. As a service business that’s serving companies legal needs is another business. I use like consumer-packaged goods? Let’s say you make candy bars. Your organization’s metrics used to understand what the performance is going to be like a new market entry, repeat customers, sales volume, and labor market costs. How are those things impacting what our profitability is and our sales and our growth? Law firms don’t necessarily match those modules.

There’s a lot of clients that I’ve worked with over the years where we have that conversation. What should we be looking at? What matters to you? What doesn’t matter to you? We cannot only monitor our performance based on our organizations needs. We must also measure our performance based on our full understanding and involvement with our clients own metrics.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: It goes back to what you said before, having open conversations and making sure both parties are on the same page with the goals. That way you both can work together to track metrics, to make sure you’re achieving those or working towards them.

Where can people learn more about the Legal Value Network, consider becoming a member, or learn about LVN’s offerings?

The best place is our website, LegalValueNetwork.com. We’ve also got our LinkedIn page. As far as membership goes, just a quick note, there are individual memberships. Still if you work in an organization where more than one person would want to become a member we have group memberships that reduces the cost of the individual membership.

That’s a good option, too, to help minimize the cost of membership. But one thing I want to note, as I mentioned, we’re trying to make sure that we’re representative of the ecosystem. I try and emphasize the point that we’re open to anyone in the legal industry or who serves the industry.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s great to know, and we will make sure that we link to your website and your social media in our transcript when the podcast episode is live. Thank you so much for joining me today, Keith, I enjoyed our conversation.

Keith Maziarek: Thanks so much, Jennifer. I appreciate it. It’s been a pleasure.

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