In the decade-plus since the Great Recession, many law firms have wisely invested in business professionals who can provide a wide range of services to lawyers and clients, ranging from pricing and project management to business development, knowledge management, talent development, technology implementation, innovation, and more. As each function has grown in scope and sophistication, the daylight between them closes.
These blurred lines can lead to toxic turf wars, or deliver exponential value to firms and their clients when these professionals work in synchrony.
In highly collaborative firms, business development professionals understand the firm’s service delivery methods and build them into value propositions alongside relevant experience. Pricing professionals know the value of the service to the client and provide both the costs and the tools the lawyers will need to manage the work profitably. Legal talent and practice group management professionals identify teams with the appropriate skills — in both substance and delivery — and ensure that training is provided to those who need it.
Over time, these professionals have become more externally-focused, working directly with the firm’s lawyers, clients, and technology providers to facilitate collaborative problem-solving that involves design thinking, process mapping, technology solutions, creative pricing, and other innovative techniques. What’s more, clients with larger in-house teams increasingly have individuals focused on legal operations with a similar mandate.
These business professionals come from diverse backgrounds in finance, technology, knowledge management, business development, and the practice of law. They are united by their mission and their roles, and yet, even as their numbers surge, their functional units are relatively new and small in comparison to others in their organizations.
While there are an increasing number of opportunities for these professionals to expand their boundaries to connect and learn from specific associations within the legal industry, there hasn’t been a consistent platform for these professionals to collaborate more broadly across the legal industry ecosystem as a whole.
To address this, the founders of the Legal Marketing Association’s P3® Conference recently launched the Legal Value Network (LVN) to connect professionals from law firms, corporate legal departments, alternative legal service providers, and technology providers. The goal, as LVN states, is to bring together those who are “focused on designing, building, and implementing the foundations of a more contemporary and commercially-sound model of legal service delivery.”
The LVN board is already planning a conference next year and several thought leadership, mentoring, and collaboration opportunities in the interim. LVN is looking to include several types of members, including “yet-to-emerge roles” within the legal industry.
LVN also acknowledges clients are a critical voice within the legal ecosystem. “Success in designing and implementing productive changes in how law firms and clients interact comes from both parties working closely with each other,” says Audrey Rubin, vice president and COO of Aon’s global law department. “Getting to know the goals and challenges of law firm pricing plus law department spend means more efficiency and profit for everyone.”
She notes that a group like LVN provides a forum for connecting experts from across the industry to facilitate the creation of meaningful change initiatives that benefit legal departments and law firms alike. “Together, we can architect new operating models for connecting buyers and sellers of legal services.”
Indeed, these new models are at the core of what LVN hopes to accomplish.