NEW YORK — Corporate law departments have undergone (and are still undergoing) fundamental change in how they function as part of their corporate parents’ mission. No longer the “Department of No” and cost-center, today’s corporate law departments are embracing the innovative changes needed to mold themselves into a value-adding facilitator of the company’s business goals.
At the VANTAGE Executive Summit, part of the VANTAGE Worldwide Conference, starting today in New York City, one panel will examine these changes and their impact on the legal industry with a deep dive into the findings of Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute’s recent 2018 State of Corporate Law Departments report. The session moderator, Elisabet Hardy, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing for Thomson Reuters’ Legal Enterprise Solutions segment, spoke to us about what she is expecting from the VANTAGE event and what the report showed about the evolution of modern corporate law departments.
Legal Executive Institute: What are you most anticipating as the VANTAGE Worldwide Conference kicks off today with the Executive Summit?
Elisabet Hardy: I think one of the primary purposes of the Executive Summit is to facilitate connections between business leaders from various law firms — ranging from smaller, domestic-focused US law firms to the global 100 firms — and that’s the most exciting part. When you can get 75 to 100 business leaders from law firms in one room for one day, you not only hear from other firms on topics that are top of mind, but you also have the opportunity to network and connect with peers.
It’s very beneficial for attendees, because they get to understand how other law firms might be dealing with the same issues or tackling issues differently than what they are. Also, we’ve made sure that we have senior leaders from corporate law departments are represented on multiple panels, so attendees will have the opportunity to hear from their clients on some of these topics, too.
Legal Executive Institute: The panel that you’re moderating is looking into the recent Thomson Reuters report on the state of the corporate law departments. How will the panel approach the main themes coming out of that report?
Elisabet Hardy: We’re going to break down what it means for a law firm when their clients are going through the modernization of their corporate law department. How do you respond to a client, from a law firm perspective, when it’s trying to foster a culture of ongoing improvement and innovation? How do you meet the demands of a client that’s embedding data-driven reviews and decision-making? And what should a law firm’s reaction be when a client is embracing metrics in a way that will drive not only their own internal department, but also help decide how they’re going to partner with law firms, and how they’re going to conduct bidding for legal services?
Basically, we want to examine this whole notion of what a modern relationship looks like between a client, its corporate legal department, and its outside law firms.
Legal Executive Institute: What do you see as the components that is driving this modernization among corporate law departments?
Elisabet Hardy: Technology, of course, and we’re going to spend a little bit of time talking about the use of technology to simplify work flows and some of the manual work processes today, and what are some of the more impactful focus areas that could benefit or enhance how law firms and corporate legal departments work together.
Also, this idea of having more of a value-driven relationship between law firms and clients — a proactive relationship, versus a reactive relationship — and what that actually means, is going to be a topic of discussion. Because, as the report showed, clients are looking for their law firms to come in, and not just talk about what might be happening today, but to look down the road, and advise clients about what might happen tomorrow. Clients want their law firms to know and understand their business in a way that will allow the firms to act as trusted advisors and real partners.
Legal Executive Institute: Finally, if you’re an attendee of the VANTAGE Worldwide Conference, what are you seeing as the critical takeaways from this panel and from the whole event?
Elisabet Hardy: I think there are a few things. First, as I said, is that by coming to one conference, attendees can find out what other firms are doing and perhaps learn ways to run their own firms better. Second, it’s a chance to learn about the new legal technology you might not be aware of, and also to see how to get every single ounce of value out of the technology you do have.
Finally, the importance of connecting with your peers cannot be overstated, because forming those relationships are critical — because no matter what your take on the future is, at the end of the day, legal is still a relationship business.
For more coverage of the VANTAGE Worldwide Conference, check out Thomson Reuters’ Legal Current.