"Law firms have a huge opportunity to start the conversation with clients about legal ops and project management no matter their size..."

By the increase in the attendance of law firms at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Institute in Las Vegas this past April, it is apparent that law firms are paying greater attention to the importance of legal operations. According to CLOC founder and leader, Connie Brenton, Chief of Staff/Sr. Director of Legal Operations at NetApp, the number of law firms that attended doubled at the 2017 Institute compared to the 2016 Institute and doubled again this year.

And there was also a definite uptick in the number of law firm exhibitors. Reed Smith exhibited their new legal operations focused consultancy, Gravity Stack, separately from the firm’s exhibit. And they were not the only firm with more than one booth. (Per legal it insider: “Reed Smith says GravityStack offers a suite of proven solutions and products available for commercial license, including some tools already on the market. The intention is to provide solutions to in-house legal departments, corporate innovation teams, Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) providers, and law firms.”) 

This impressive move for Reed Smith demonstrates a sophisticated level of understanding of the marketplace. This was a proactive decision and a position grabber for both the firm and its new entity. But hold on because it is not just larger firms that are now assisting large companies with their legal operations’ needs.

"Sometimes working with larger firms can be a turn off because of their complicated infrastructure and poor service..."

According to one CLOC member, who is the Head of Legal Operations and Technology at a Fortune 500 Company based in the Midwest, “Law firms need to understand our world and how things have shifted. Legal operations these days are about more than technology. Please understand our pain points. We choose outside firms based on a myriad of factors – not just rates or AFAs. We look for trusted relationships and help with problem solving in unique ways.

“It’s great these days that some smaller firms are incorporating legal operations principles. At our company, we are open to considering smaller firms. Sometimes working with larger firms can be a turn off because of their complicated infrastructure and poor service. Mid-size and smaller firms can be more facile and easier to work with, especially if they take the time to understand our company, see where we are headed and how they can work with us to create better efficiencies. In fact, some corporations want to try out relationships with smaller firms but finding the right firm can be a challenge.

"Get Stickier With Your Clients..."

“Some larger firms think everything is bespoke but that is certainly not the case. These firms need to understand the competition is fierce and that they should develop an understanding of what legal operations means to each client. My best advice to firms trying to enhance their relationships with legal ops professionals is to get stickier with their clients. Help us squeeze in more value. And don’t just throw around terms you are not completely involved with such as AI.”

One boutique law firm, Klein & Wilson, a small trial powerhouse based in Newport Beach, CA, has been working with numerous large clients to help them wrap their arms around a clear path and associated costs for significant cases through its Litigation Analysis Memo (LAM). 

Partnering with clients to write the LAM, Klein & Wilson prepares a detailed factual background referencing key documents necessary to understand the events leading to litigation. After the client approves the factual background, Klein & Wilson prepares a comprehensive legal analysis and litigation strategy (goals identified; paths to reach goals presented; legal issues identified and resolved; anticipated discovery explained; anticipated motions identified; damages analyzed if possible; potential experts listed; strengths and weaknesses reviewed; case theme developed; and thorough budget presented based on assumptions). The client reviews the LAM and decides whether to contest or settle the case. 

If the client-approved assumptions are correct ... Klein & Wilson’s litigation budgets are usually within 20 percent of the client’s actual expenses...

By thinking through a case upfront, Klein & Wilson efficiently lays out a plan that accomplishes clients’ goals and creates a meaningful budget – not just numbers on a paper nobody takes seriously.  If the client-approved assumptions are correct, and the client has accurately presented the facts, Klein & Wilson’s litigation budgets are usually within 20 percent of the client’s actual expenses. The link to the LAM brochure can be found here.

Early and comprehensive case analysis leads to predictable outcomes and minimizes discovery and motion expenses. 

Preparing a LAM at the outset of a case is one of the reasons Klein & Wilson has over a 90 percent win rate at trial. The Klein & Wilson LAM has impressed clients and adversaries alike.  

After Klein & Wilson settled a large case for a small client where the future of the company was at stake, the Fortune 500 defendant (which paid the settlement) asked Klein & Wilson to represent it in future matters. 

At one point in a deposition, a frustrated witness answered in response to a question, “If it is in your damn notebook, it happened, OK?”  

There was one condition: the Fortune 500 Company wanted to see the LAM Klein & Wilson prepared which had been so devastating to the Fortune 500 Company. At one point in a deposition, a frustrated witness answered in response to a question, “If it is in your damn notebook, it happened, OK?” 

The LAM notebook was on the table at every deposition and hearing. The firm's small client was so thrilled with its settlement, it not only gave permission for Klein & Wilson to show the LAM to the former adversary but encouraged the firm to do so. After reviewing Klein & Wilson’s detailed analysis of the case, the Fortune 500 Company hired the firm.

After reviewing Klein & Wilson’s detailed analysis of the case, the Fortune 500 Company hired the firm.

It should not be surprising that an innovative firm like Klein & Wilson uses a LAM to plan case strategy and develop a meaningful budget. The real question is why other firms do not prepare similar support documents. Firm partner Mark Wilson commented, “We plan case strategy with our trial opening statement in mind. By keeping our eye on the critical points we need to win the trial, we save our clients a substantial amount of money. Cases are won and lost on pivotal issues, not minutiae which distract many attorneys.” 

According to Pratik Patel from Elevate Services, “Law firms have a huge opportunity to start the conversation with clients about legal ops and project management no matter their size. Firms who become enablers of efficiency and process for customers will benefit. Reducing fees is not always the driver – rather customers say, ‘We just need more process around the matter to help understand what we will spend and to the extent possible, eliminate surprises.’

The real question is why other firms do not prepare similar support documents...

“Law firms are beginning to equip their partners with legal ops professionals who can either support on specific matters or generally assist with advancing the legal operations conversation. We are starting to see an increase of the number of legal departments and law firms working together to split the onus of this, but we have miles to go.”

Kevin Clem, Managing Director of HBR Consulting, added, “Law Firms are not advancing as quickly and deeply as they should. More firm leaders need to get involved and dive deeper beyond just attending a conference on legal operations. Great firm leaders get involved, invest time and firm resources to succeed in expanding client relationships. Firms and legal departments alike must gather more data driven insights to facilitate conversations about working more collaboratively and proactively. If a partner is going into a client or potential client to discuss legal ops, don’t go in flat footed. Pivot from a client feedback conversation to a deeper more meaningful one about creating better transparencies. Even small law firms have a great opportunity to advance through deeper and clearer use of legal ops strategies.”

"More firm leaders need to get involved and dive deeper beyond just attending a conference on legal operations..."

Small, mid-size or large, all law firms can better position themselves to grow client satisfaction and client relationships by understanding the various facets of legal operations from technology to strategic planning. But make no mistake about it, these days opportunities abound for smaller firms to enhance their position with larger companies. 

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[Merry Neitlich is managing partner of EM Consultants located in Irvine, CA. She can be reached at merry@EMconsults.org or 949-260- 0936.]

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