A big theme at the recent ILTACON 2016 event was corporations’ desire to change the way legal services are delivered to them, and how general counsel may keep legal work in-house or direct work to those law firms that are willing to change. And this was not just an idealistic theme at a conference — corporations have kept $4 billion dollars of work in-house in 2016, marking the eighth year out of the last 10 that legal spending has moved in-house.
And more law firms are finding innovative ways to meet their corporate clients’ expectations in the way legal service is delivered, measured, and of course, priced. Indeed, several firms at ILTACON showcased ways in which they were able to more fully partner with clients,
Another such case involved Littler Mendelson and its client, hunting and fishing gear retail giant, Cabela.
Both Scott Forman, a Littler shareholder who is integral in the firm’s development of technology platforms to re-engineer the delivery of legal services, and Bradley Lundeen, Cabela’s senior corporate attorney for labor and employment matters, spoke at a panel at ILTACON to describe their collaboration.
Lundeen explained that Cabela’s had been using a variety of outside law firms to handle employment matters for years but wanted more predictability and transparency in their legal spend, consistent and high-quality work across jurisdictions, and a case management solution that would allow for quicker updates. Lundeen searched for something to provide all that and found Littler’s proprietary tool, CaseSmart.
The firm had created CaseSmart, Forman said, because it wanted to better partner with clients, and provide them data-driven metrics to help make better decisions about their legal matters. CaseSmart is based on Lean Six Sigma and was created when Littler folks in knowledge management and information technology came together with practicing lawyers to carefully map out all the processes in specific types of employment matters (such as administrative charges, single-plaintiff litigation or class actions). Using it, clients can know exactly where they stand at each stage of a matter and how much it might cost should they move onto the next phase.
For more on Littler’s innovation and use of CaseSmart, check out the recent issue of the Legal Executive Institute’s Forum magazine.
Forman noted that in addition to developing and implementing CaseSmart, Littler also undertook an “unbundling” of their people by ensuring the most senior attorneys (shareholders) were focused on high-level strategic work, with associates trained in the same way, since they should be on the path to becoming shareholders. Littler didn’t want their associates focused on legal grunt work — e.g. conducting ediscovery or similar tasks that other personnel could do more efficiently and cheaper.
Interestingly, Littler also found there were many attorneys who didn’t want to be on a partnership track and preferred a better work-life balance. So Littler created a corps of Flex-Time Attorneys, who are hired by, vetted and supervised by Littler attorneys to handle discrete tasks for review by Littler associates and shareholders. (One unforeseen bonus to that, Littler’s FlexTime Attorneys program consistently helps land the firm on various lists for best law firms for women. Indeed, a glance at the firm’s FlexTime Attorneys corps reflects almost all women, indicating that perhaps Littler has found one unique way to better retain women lawyers at large firms.) Additionally, Littler hired data analysts who could more quickly and inexpensively calculate potential damages and class action exposures than attorneys, and then were able to push data intake, processing and auditing to the firm’s administrative support.
The results of Cabela’s engagement with Littler and CaseSmart speak for themselves. Lundeen says the company has been able to reduce its legal spend by 50% and the CaseSmart dashboard provides early case assessment analytics into judges, jury pools, opposing counsel and more, so the company can know when it may be more productive to settle matters or continue to litigate. Further, Cabela’s now has very consistent work product with client-dedicated teams of flex-time attorneys across every jurisdiction; for instance, Lundeen said, Cabela’s equal employment opportunity policies are explained consistently and identically in each matter, unlike in the past.
In addition, the client-dedicated teams allows Lundeen and his group to spend far less time educating new or different counsel on Cabela’s policies, organization, or even introducing them to the company’s human resources staff.