Letter From The President Of The Central Ohio Chapter Of The Association Of Corporate Counsel

2011-10-18 09:58

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

Value Challenge Initiatives in Central Ohio
The Value Challenge is an Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) initiative that is intended to reconnect value and costs for legal services. I agree with ACC that many traditional law firm business models, billing practices and certain approaches to lawyer training and cost management are not aligned with corporate clients’ needs and expectations. To realign the interests of outside counsel there must be a change agent. Foundational to the Value Challenge is a belief that creative solutions and change will be driven by dialog among corporate counsel and law firms.
I share the belief that an open and ongoing dialog is critical to the Value Challenge. The Central Ohio Chapter of ACC (CO-ACC) is creating opportunities for discussions that we hope will lead to innovative solutions that reconnect value and costs for legal services. As president of CO-ACC, I organized and facilitated three CO-ACC Value Challenge events in Columbus this year, where we discussed Legal Project Management and Value-Based Billing.
To encourage frank discussions between in-house and outside counsel, we limited the sessions to smaller groups of 15 to 17 attendees. We capped law firm participation at three firms per session and three attorneys per firm. In-house invitees included general counsels and in-house counsel responsible for the selection and/or management of outside counsel. The format, structure and topics successfully generated stimulating conversations. Several attendees scheduled meetings after the sessions to continue the discussion, and the Columbus Bar Association reached out to me to present the topics to their members at an educational event on October 18.
Legal Project Management (LPM) can significantly improve efficiencies in the delivery of legal services, and we learned that attorneys here are realizing the benefits of LPM. LPM involves disciplined planning, organizing and managing resources to successfully complete project goals. I am a proponent of LPM and was pleased to hear from law firms regarding their efforts relating to LPM. Firms are taking different approaches to LPM, including training their attorneys on LPM, hiring professional project managers, and a combination of hiring professionals and training legal staff.
There is a varying degree of utilization of LPM and Value-Based Billing within law firms and in-house legal departments, with expertise ranging from novice to expert. However, most attorneys are nearer to the novice end of the range, so we have much work to do in order to meet the demands of corporate clients. Clients rightfully expect lawyers to be active participants in helping them achieve business objectives, including reducing and managing expenses. Discussions on Value Challenge topics will lead to creative solutions that reconnect value and costs for legal services.
CO-ACC has plans to continue such conversations, and we are planning another Value Challenge session in Toledo. If you have thoughts on how we may further the Value Challenge objectives, please let me know. Your experiences, successes, failures, lessons and suggestions are welcome. 
Russ Dempsey