From the Experts
Prashant Dubey, Corporate Counsel
There has long been a tension between business units and legal departments over contracting. In many companies this tension has resulted in a “live and let live” environment, since the companies don’t have much contract-driven litigation and haven’t been slapped with sanctions.
However, this seemingly benign tension has flared into something more intense in some companies, and general counsel are finding that looking the other way is no longer an option. Audit committees of boards (especially at public companies subject to Public Company Accounting Oversight Board standards) are asking for audits of their companies’ contracting practices. Here are some of the circumstances that have prompted action:
At a board meeting of a publicly traded Fortune 100 company, the GC and the CFO of a company were asked to succinctly state the “total value of all obligations contained in active agreements.” No one on the management team could answer the question.
Elsewhere, a company’s management could not represent an overall “risk” level across all contracts. (read the article)
Corporate legal departments are increasingly turning to legal services outsourcing, and becoming discerning buyers in the process
Tyler Marion, InsideCounsel
Scars from the Great Recession are still visible on the books of most major corporations, and it’s clear that a lot of in-house legal departments didn’t escape unscathed.
Large markups on billable hours, expensive associate resources and lack of cost oversight on the vendor’s behalf in many cases led to painful internal cuts, resulting in more work for internal legal resources that would otherwise have been outsourced to law firms. Lessons have been learned and are being applied. Legal departments are now focused on delivery and cost — and are becoming more educated shoppers when it comes to the external provision of legal services.
They have to be. Identifying the work to outsource is one thing, choosing who to outsource to is another. Providers of legal services outsourcing (LSO) — or legal process outsourcing (LPO) — are now plentiful, offering the services and cost that corporate clients are seeking. According to some sources, some 47 percent of companies outsource between 11 percent and 30 percent of their legal work to LPOs. (read the article)
Got cybersecurity? Some corporate clients ask law firms for proof
Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal
Some banks and corporations are demanding that law firms improve their computer security systems and seeking proof that adequate steps have been taken.
Some bank officials have asked law firms to fill out 60-page questionnaires about their cybersecurity measures, while others are visiting firms to conduct their own inspections, the New York Times DealBook blog reports. Some law firms are also being asked to add insurance coverage for computer breaches.
The story says clients want law firms to stop risky practices that include: putting files on portable thumb drives, emailing documents to nonsecure iPads, and linking to shared networks in countries where hacking is common.
Several representatives from large law firms told the Times that the security threat is being exaggerated. But lawyer Vincent Polley, who contributed to an ABA book on cybersecurity, told the newspaper that many law firm managers are in denial about cybersecurity risk. (read the post)
What concrete steps can we take to put the ‘legal ecosystem’ philosophy into practice?
Connie Brenton, InsideCounsel
Professionals in our field are becoming familiar with the concept of the “legal ecosystem,” a term that conveys relationships shared by corporate and other clients, outside counsel and third-party service providers.
In viewing these relationships as an ecosystem, perhaps the biggest “environmental concern” is the misalignment between ever-increasing budget pressures in corporate legal departments and law firms striving to remain profitable in a highly competitive market.
As one of the leaders of the NetApp legal team, I have seen the significant benefits of applying innovative and bottom-line approaches throughout the legal ecosystem. These include better utilization of in-house talent, more collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with outside counsel, higher morale across the board and a notable reduction in annual outside legal expenditures.
So, what concrete steps can we take to put this new philosophy into practice? (read the article)
Modern matter management technology has made the chore of managing corporate legal matters far more effective and efficient
David Carns, InsideCounsel
The reality of corporate life is that litigation and legal transactions are always present. Nearly every business transaction requires legal review, and often assistance, from outside counsel. Once litigation becomes imminent, tracking how much money is being spent and which outside resources are being used become important and difficult tasks to manage. Modern matter management technology has made the chore of managing corporate legal matters far more effective and efficient. This article will review the benefits of matter management systems and how they can be effective in your legal department.
Simply keeping track of active matters and who is working on them can be a complicated task. Matter management software provides a centralized approach to tracking which matters are in play and which resources are being used. Far beyond simple spreadsheets and word processing documents, matter management tools will help you keep track of all matters and their associated details. For example, if you have a litigation portfolio of 30 matters, modern matter management software will help you track how long each matter has been active, at which stage within litigation each matter lies, and which outside firms are assisting. Since these tools are centralized and accessible to appropriate individuals on your team, it is easy to stay organized and allow the proper employees access to the information. (read the article)
Dan, Law Firm Risk Management Blog
ALM’s Legal Intelligencer is running an excellent series on information security. Part 1: “Law Firms Face Pressure From Clients on Data Security” –
- “Forget client service or rate flexibility. If a law firm wants to get, or even keep, business, data security plans are often now the price of admission. Corporate America is increasingly looking to ensure its outside counsel are handling client data just as securely as the clients themselves do.”
- “‘As an industry, we are being challenged in ways that we have historically not been by some of our clients and, most notably, our financial services clients,’ said Kelley Drye & Warren Chief Information Officer Judi Flournoy… While data security is important to all clients, Flournoy said those in the financial services industry, for example, are regulated to ensure their vendors are following proper data-security protocols.”
- “Reed Smith Chief Information Officer Gary Becker said many clients in the financial services and health care industry are mandated under federal law to continually review their data security initiatives. ‘We’re now regulated by our clients,” Becker said.’” (read the post)
Louann Barnett, James Partridge and Rob Thomas of Duff & Phelps
Ask just about any general counsel or legal operations director and you’ll hear a similar refrain: Law departments are under increasing pressure to reduce costs and to improve efficiency. Add to that the need to manage the exponential growth in information bombarding the typical Office of the General Counsel and it’s easy to understand why legal matter management systems have become all the rage in the modern corporate law department.
It wasn’t long ago when the choice of which system to get was rather easy – there were relatively few players in the field and the features that were offered were fairly similar. Today, however, the picture is very different. New products have appeared with powerful features that could barely be imagined just a few short years ago. Today’s Legal matter management systems can help your legal department become more efficient and cost-effective. Most deliver the ability to generate reports that reveal important insights into your matters. Likewise, matter management systems that incorporate an e-billing component offer potential cost savings that can range from 3-10% or more. Systems that are accessible from mobile devices like smart phones and tablets are the latest innovation.
If you are considering implementing your department’s first matter management system, or considering an upgrade to an existing system, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The following tips can help can help you sort through the morass. (read the post)