Corporate law departments are more frequently turning to both bespoke and ready-made digital tools, sophisticated partnerships with law firms and legal service providers, and quantifiable, long-term strategies to improve efficiency, according to the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global legal association representing more than 45,000 members in 85 countries.
ACC recognized 10 law departments, along with five external partners, as 2019 ACC Value Champions. The champions range from banking to mining companies, and are based in Australia, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, and the United States. Their strategic approaches streamlined processes, increased client satisfaction, enhanced the value of legal service spending, and reduced turnaround times.
“To be considered best-in-class, a law department must be willing to tear down their operational model and start again from scratch,” said Catherine J. Moynihan, associate vice president of legal management services at ACC. “These Champions did just that. In response to strategic demands, they employed a variety of process improvement techniques and creative partnership models to automate and streamline legal services. Their agility is breathtaking.”
A panel of past ACC Value Champions selected the following 2019 ACC Value Champions:
- AbbVie (Chicago) — Shortly after AbbVie’s formation in 2013, its legal operations team decided to address run-away data costs associated with e-discovery. They brought all data collection, processing and hosting in-house, saving US$4 million per year. Significant intangible value followed, as AbbVie’s internal eDiscovery group became internal consultants, assisting with early case assessments and adapting processes to get better results.
- Anglo American (Johannesburg) and Exigent (London) — After the 2015 collapse of commodity prices in the mining sector, the Anglo American Group legal team in Johannesburg lost 60 percent of its in-house staff. They moved low-value, high-volume work to Exigent, freeing the in-house team to handle complex legal issues. Contract turnaround time dropped 86 percent. Exigent also developed a custom legal spend tool that supported Anglo in converging to a panel of law firms and better managing pricing. This resulted in a 35 percent decrease in outside counsel spend over three years.
- Deutsche Bank (Frankfurt) and QuisLex (New York) — Deutsche Bank partnered with QuisLex to create a Center of Excellence for e-discovery, standardizing processes and implementing sophisticated, AI-enabled tools to find relevant documents, automate redactions and translate foreign-language documents. The Bank saved millions of Euro, with the cost of 18-month reviews down 49 percent and 90 percent of managed reviews completed on time and on budget.
- Hatch (Brisbane) and Lexvoco/LOD (Brisbane/Melbourne) —Hatch’s Australia-Asia legal team used design thinking in collaboration with Lexvoco to build a global, legal information platform, mapped against Hatch's project life cycle. The platform empowers clients to self-serve for routine legal issues. This has led to a drop in the response time for document requests, from an average of a week to a few hours. The legal team also implemented key change management techniques as part of design thinking, including enhanced visual communications and training practices.
- MassMutual (Springfield, Mass.) — Leveraging its data scientists and Lean expertise, MassMutual put some new twists into an old concept - employing a national coordinating counsel. From selecting the pilot portfolio of lititation, to conducting the RFP, structuring the alternative fees and onboarding the law firm, MassMutual applied a data and process improvement driven approach. In its first year, this new model reduced legal spend by 12 percent and matter duration by 40 percent.
- McAfee (Santa Clara, Calif.) — To overcome backlogs, inconsistent service and miscommunication stemming from using email to provide legal services, McAfee created a digital platform that deploys decision trees to deliver advice to clients and route unique, impactful issues to in-house counsel. Costs dropped 60 percent and the number of completed reviews per year rose 300 percent.
- Rabo AgriFinance (RAF) (Chesterfield, Mo.) and Thompson Coburn (St. Louis) —Bucking the in-sourcing trend, RAF partnered with Thompson Coburn to handle its large agricultural loans. Together they redesigned the process using an innovative data model to predict how long review and revision of such loans should take. Three of the firm’s commercial finance attorneys were stationed onsite at RAF, and fine-tuning adjustments were made to other staffing and support, with a value scorecard created to evaluate results — all under a monthly fixed-fee arrangement. Turnaround time has dropped 70 percent, from an average of five days to a day and a half.
- Sonae (Maia, Portugal) — Reengineering the proceedings processes for 1,250 stores across Portugal required ingenuity for the five-person Sonae Employment and Labor Law team, which supports 40,000 employees. They partnered with IT to develop a software solution that streamlines communications with 970 interlocutors, registers and tracks all labor and social security proceedings, complies with GDPR, and integrates with enterprise resource planning and a knowledge management platform. Further embracing technology to conduct training, those costs fell 90 percent. With the duration of proceedings cut by a crucial 30%, the legal team now handles more cases, and received favorable decisions in 92 percent of proceedings in 2018.
- Telstra (Melbourne) — In need of greater flexibility and reduced resources, as part of a plan to simplify operations, Telstra’s legal team re-imagined its operating model, moving away from a traditional business-aligned model to organizing lawyers into enterprise wide legal practice areas. To operate more efficiently, they applied Agile practices and also designed an online tool, Engage Legal, to guide users to the practice area team best positioned to handle their requests. Operating costs fell 15 percent and demand management has dramatically improved.
- Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) (Plano, Texas) and The Counsel Management Group (CMG) (New York) — After converging to a preferred partnering program and harnessing and curating spend data, the TMNA legal team partnered with CMG to come up with a sophisticated, sustainable way to price legal matters. By establishing unit costs for key items of works – from depositions to significant motions – TMNA is now able to adjust matter budgets based on scope changes as matters evolve. Budgets are now more reliable, and savings average 17 percent per year.