One Bite at a Time: 4 GCs on Change

One Bite at a Time: 4 GCs on Change

In June, the ACC’s 2018 Legal Operations Conference keynote in Chicago were four general counsel who shared their approaches to reducing costs through legal operations and demonstrating value to the business.

As reported by Legaltech News, the four panelists — Brad Lerman of Medtronic, Phyllis Harris of Walmart, William Deckelman of DXC Technology and Cindy Abbott of Chicago Public Media — shared the four different ways they created change in their departments.

GC Brad Lerman sees a parallel between the operations role and Medtronic’s entire business. They both provide and measure value based on what’s being provided to the customer. This requires that all — whether in the legal department or across the company — are on the same page about what matters. And what matters determines the source of the value. Per Legaltech News:

“There’s all kinds of ways we can reduce that expense, but if you’re not also measuring the value you deliver, you’re going to fool yourself into thinking you helped the company,” said Lerman.

Phyllis Harris found when she arrived at Walmart that she had to chip away at the cultural belief that the legal department was “special.” To do so, she increased transparency within and also encouraged outside counsel to make the same culture change. Harris updated dashboards and centralized the department’s data.

“[Harris] encouraged the company’s attorneys to think about what story they would tell the business side when it comes to litigation and other decision-making.”

The Walmart GC also tackled standardizing thousands of engagement letters — an effort that was met with some resistance (“pride and ego”) at first.

Working for a technology company, GC William Deckelman was in the right place to make the significant change that he did: outsourcing the transactional side of the department. This required trust and an integration of the two technology systems. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise, said Deckelman.

While GC Cindy Abbott of Chicago Public Radio brought a different perspective to the panel — a legal department of one — she stated that size doesn’t matter when on the hunt for legal efficiencies. It’s important in departments large and small to work closely with the business side and also to develop plans that address legal process pain points in order to ultimately drive efficiencies. For smaller departments on a small budget, Abbott advises just taking it one bite at a time and finding the small wins.

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