A Highly Logical Approach to the Future of Corporate Counsel

A Highly Logical Approach to the Future of Corporate Counsel

Logic led the way at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Legal Operations conference in Chicago last month. According to a Legal Tech News summary of the conference, the purpose was to provide a glimpse into the future of legal operations, which is now.

“The old way is breaking down,” said William Henderson, law professor, researcher/chief strategy officer at Lawyer Metrics and keynote panelist for “The Changing Dynamics of the Legal Industry and Implications for Corporate Legal Change Agents.” Only logic, according to Henderson, can “right the ship” and set the course for the future of corporate counsel.

Specifically, Henderson cited the following steps that corporate counsel could take:

  • Find efficiencies
  • Develop closer relationship with third parties — think “partners,” not “vendors”
  • Add legal operations personnel
  • Incorporate analytics

Panelist Mark Smolik, general counsel and chief compliance officer of DHL/Exel Inc., provided an example of the power of harnessing new and increasing analytics resources. In 2009, the legal department was working with 348 law firms. After creating a rating system, that number fell to 19. No wonder it’s now a buyer’s, not a seller’s, market!

But what’s the ultimate key to success? According to panelist and former FMC Technologies GC and current president of ValoremNext, Jeffrey Carr, it’s having a vision that incorporates the three E’s: execution, environment, and excellence in operations. He also emphasized the importance of planning, driven by legal department leadership. For Carr, there are three levels of employees: leaders, managers and operators — and he counts lawyers as operators, not as leaders. He was quick to add that this doesn’t mean that lawyers can’t be leaders. Only that it’s through this system that two of the three E’s, environment and excellence, can be more easily achieved.

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