6 Emergent Trends from a Corporate Legal Department Conference

by | May 20, 2014

6 Emerging Trends from a Corporate Legal Department Conference

Bald Mountain stands in stark contrast to the gentle green foothills where Northern Virginia begins to cede terrain to the edges of the Blue Hill Mountain range.  With an elevation of about 770 feet, it provides a commanding view of the surrounding area.

Examining trends in the legal industry from higher vantage point, as Toby Brown suggested, seems like sage advice.  It’s fitting then that two miles away, we just wrapped up the LexisNexis CounselLink Annual Customer Conference.  The event attracted CounselLink customers of all ranks from legal administrator, to finance and pricing specialists, to general counsels.

It is from this observatory we offer these six trends from a corporate legal department conference:

1. Inside counsel continues to consolidate law firms. 

One global brand – with thousands of trademarks to protect – noted it has gone from retaining 120 law firms to just 15.  It spends upwards of $30 million a year on outside counsel. (multisource)

2. Efficiency pressure influencing legal departments.

A few years ago, the pressure for efficiency was nearly exclusively focused on law firms.  That trend seems to be shifting to also include work performed in-house.  GCs are increasingly focused on metrics and measurement. (Audrey Mungal)

3. Proving value top of mind. 

Corporate legal departments are increasingly looking for ways to demonstrate value to the business. In-house attorneys are focused on using matter management systems for effective in-house project management, keen to ensure outcomes and (settlement) costs are tracked when a matter is closed (whether resolved by inside or outside counsel), and metrics for throughput to demonstrate responsiveness to the business were cited explicitly.  (Audrey Mungal)

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4. AFAs still in fashion.

A large corporation noted that the vast majority of its US legal work is exclusively structured under an alternative fee arrangement (AFA) framework.  Corporate counsel is laser focused on efficiency and the consolidation trend is largely aimed at enhancing bargaining power and negotiating volume discounts. (multisource)

5. Legal reporting isn’t enough.

Legal operations managers need automated, aggregated analytics in the form of presentation-format dashboards and scorecards to present information to legal department heads, their business partners and other corporate leaders.  They need to provide critical, consumable, sometimes non-contiguous data that tells the story about corporate exposure, risk mitigation and spend control.  Conference attendees raised new purposes for moving to dashboards – taking super-reports and breaking them into smaller more consumable chunks for example.  This means adding graphics, logos and generally, making the legal documents easily understood for snapshot or deep analysis as requirements demand.   (Jeff Skott)

6. People want visual presentation of data.

It is widely acknowledged that lawyers don’t want to see numbers and reports.  They want to see a story.  There was tremendous interest in seeing examples of how other customers’ present data, learning how to build dashboards, and hearing about when we will roll out more visual standard reports. (Kris Satkunas)

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Do these themes match with your observations in the corporate legal department?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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