Contracting Dis-ease: Optimizing Your Contracts Process

By: Doug Kaminski
Chief Revenue Officer, Cobra Legal Solutions

Drafting, reviewing, and managing contracts has become more complex than ever these days.  The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prevented numerous individuals and companies from fulfilling their contracts last year, forcing mass review of those contracts to determine what recourse contracting parties could take to address the situation.  The number of contracts affected, and the costs associated with review of those contracts was, for many companies, astronomical.  Here’s what you can do to address the contract review dilemma and ensure your processes are more streamlined.

The Pandemic Contract Review Dilemma

In many contracts, it’s common to include a standard clause known as a “Force Majeure” clause, which addresses unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.  French for “superior force”, Force Majeure is a common clause in contracts that may free the parties from contractual obligations as a result of an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties.  But there may be no ‘boilerplate’ Force Majeure clause, as each one is often the subject of negotiation between the parties.  So, many organizations had to review each of their affected contracts once the pandemic impacted those contracts to determine next steps.

Add to the challenge that the typical Fortune 1000 company maintains between 20,000 to 40,000 active contracts, so that means thousands of contracts that potentially needed review.  Then, consider the time it takes to review each contract.  Unlike document review for litigation, where review of each document takes about a minute on average, review of a single contract could potentially take several hours.

Traditional methods can’t handle the scale cost effectively.  According to BizCounsel, basic contract review can cost you anywhere from $450 to $3,000 – per contract!  And it can cost even more than that per contract for them to “redline” the contract and conduct negotiations.  The costs can add up quickly.

Taking a Managed Approach to Contracts

Part of the challenge of contract review stems from the way contracts are created in the first place – the language contained within them can vary over time or based on who is drafting the contract.  Contract lifecycle management (CLM) is the structured management of an organization’s contracts – from initiation to execution through performance and renewal to eventual expiration – to enable the organization’s approach to contracts to be streamlined and even automated.  Let’s take a look at the steps in a typical contract lifecycle:

  • Template Creation: Perhaps, the most important step begins by creating and maintaining template standards within the organization for contracts. There may be one or more templates for an organization depending on the types of contracts being managed, but the templates should be consistent to the extent possible to minimize work required downstream.
  • Contract Creation: When creating specific contracts, leveraging those templates and rules-based engines can help streamline and automate the creation process for each contract.
  • Contract Review: Establishing a consistent workflow that leverages technology to assist with the contract review can capture terms in a structured manner to support downstream analytics, while also assessing compliance with frequently changing company policies. You’ll want to document in an evergreen document: the playbook.
  • Contract Approval: In many organizations, contracts may have to go through multiple levels of approval, including management, purchasing, legal and other departments. An established and automated workflow streamlines this process.
  • Contract Execution: Physical signing of contracts these days is becoming much less common (especially since the pandemic). Use of electronic-signature platforms like DocuSign and Adobe Sign and even QR code validation is becoming the norm.  Workflows are adjusting for this new standard in contract execution.  Blockchain adds another dimension.
  • Contract Performance: The steps taken earlier in the process to capture terms in a structured manner lead to the ability to apply analytics to track performance under those contract terms and identify potential breach of terms earlier in the process to address the issues before they become critical. Tracking the performance of contracts manually is becoming obsolete.
  • Contract Renewal and Expiration: Lifecycle management concludes with the end of a contract, and analytics help here to keep track of which contracts are reaching their end cycle and provide information regarding those contracts that can be (or should be) renewed, as well as those contracts that will (or should be allowed to) expire.

The traditional “one-off” approach to contract review is inefficient and expensive.  Today, efficient contract management starts with a structured, lifecycle-based CLM approach to managing contracts from beginning to end, working with experts that can help implement and manage such an approach – at a fraction of the cost.  The next contract dilemma may be just around the corner – are you ready for it?

For more information about Cobra’s Contract Management services, click here.

There Are No Small Parts

By: Doug Kaminski
Chief Revenue Officer, Cobra Legal Solutions

In theatre, there is a saying attributed to “the father of modern acting” Konstantin Stanislavski, where he said, “there are no small parts, only small actors.”  Just as in a theatre play where every actor contributes to the play’s success, every team member in a discovery project contributes to the success of the project in terms of your ability to accomplish the discovery objectives on time and on budget.

But in a project that can involve potentially dozens of team members (or even more), how can you be sure that you’re getting the most out of your team’s efforts, down to each member of the team?  Do you have the info you need when you need it to track the activity associated with your personnel resources?

Metrics Are the Key to Successful Projects

The key to answering those questions is metrics.  Tracking metrics – as long as they’re the right metrics – helps you keep track of the status of your projects, which (in turn) helps keep the project itself on track.

Take the Review phase, which is the phase where the most human resources tend to be applied, which generally makes it (by far) the most expensive phase in eDiscovery.  Here are just some of the metrics that could be tracked for review, for the entire team or individual reviewers:

  • Documents Reviewed: The number of documents reviewed, with the ability to break down averages by reviewer, by time frame (e.g., hour, day, week, etc.) and any combination thereof.
  • Percent of Documents in Each Classification: The percentage of documents classified as responsive, non-responsive, privileged, etc., with the ability to track variances across reviewers.
  • Responsiveness Percentage Per Custodian: The percentage of responsive documents across custodians to help understand which custodians are providing the most responsive documents so that efforts can be prioritized on those custodians.
  • File Type Breakdowns: Percent of documents for each file type (e.g., email, word processing, spreadsheet) and the distribution of each across reviewers. Sometimes, the reason that certain reviewers are moving slower than others is because they have a higher concentration of difficult documents to review.
  • Review Cost Per Document: Average cost per document for review, which can include both attorney review cost and technology cost. The ability to isolate that cost to non-responsive documents can show how much time is being spent on documents not related to the case – an important metric to identify potential opportunities for improvement and cost savings.
  • Overturn Rate: Percentage of documents for which classifications are overturned in QC. This metric, when tracked by reviewer, can identify which reviewers may need additional training to ensure their classifications are on point.
  • Estimated Time to Complete: The estimated number of working days that are required to review the remaining unreviewed documents, based on a rolling average review rate. It’s vitally important to understand when you’re expected to finish, so that you can make adjustments if meeting the deadline is in jeopardy.

Those are just a few examples in one eDiscovery phase of how metrics tracking can project teams identify issues and address them quickly and proactively to keep the project on track overall.

Dashboards and Automation

Obtaining these metrics used to involve running reports periodically (such as at the end of each day) and performing calculations to measure progress.  That approach was highly manual, prone to mistakes and untimely, as you may have lost an entire day or more before you spotted a trend that needed correcting – time potentially wasted when striving to meet aggressive deadlines.  And data from those reports had to be re-entered into matter management and billing systems, taking additional time and effort to actually get paid for all that hard work.

Today, it has become important to get those metrics real-time and, in a format where the information can be quickly digested and understood.  Automated project dashboards are key to tracking progress to provide real-time insights into legal spend effectiveness and resource allocation.  And those dashboards need to be mobile friendly so that you can actually get away from your desk and live life while checking in to continue to make sure your project is on target.  Finally, metrics from the dashboard should automatically flow into matter management and eBilling solutions, streamlining the tracking and billing processes.

Are you getting the most out of your players?  They’re probably working hard, but maybe not as efficiently as they could be.  You should be able to determine just how efficiently at any time from any place and course correct as needed.  Metrics help ensure that you, as the director, deliver an award-winning performance.

For more information about Cobra’s CobraPulse® real-time metrics dashboard, click here.

That’s Not the Way We Do It Anymore

By: Doug Kaminski
Chief Revenue Officer, Cobra Legal Solutions

One of the biggest impediments to progress within organizations is the phrase “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  As we discussed in this post, processes have to evolve to continue to be useful and productive.  And they have to leverage technology, as well as expertise in those processes to lead to improvement.  And that’s certainly true for the process of managing contracts.

How the “Nuts and Bolts” of Contract Generation Has Evolved

Believe it or not, contracts and contract law have been around since the days of the ancient civilizations of the Greek and Roman empires.  Needless to say, they didn’t have a lot of technology to leverage back then!  Fast forward a couple of millennia and there may be a few of you who can still remember the days when contracts were typed on typewriters (and liberal use of “white out” was necessary to avoid retyping large sections of those contracts).  And contracts were mailed or hand delivered to contracting parties and (of course) hand signed with a pen.  Handwritten markups in red pen were performed for changes that were needed, essentially “redlining” the contract. With each contract needing to be typed independently, the only leveraging of technology for contract generation (eventually) was – electronic typewriters for contract creation and fax machines for contract delivery – and the primary way of leveraging expertise was – faster typists.

Introducing computers into the mix made the creation of contracts more digital and enabled technology to be applied to the contract management process in a whole new way.  Now, you could create a contract in Word, copy the file and re-use it as a template, then email that to the recipient, who could print it out, sign it, scan it and email it back, within minutes.  Or that party could first “redline” suggested contract changes right within the electronic file and the parties could send it back and forth until both sides agreed on terms.  What a concept!  Imagine back then if an organization insisted that contracts should continue to be typed on a typewriter and mailed, because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  There were those holdouts, at least for a while.

Eventually, through the technology of electronic signatures, there wasn’t even a need anymore to print, sign and scan contracts anymore.  This technology streamlined the contracts process even more, and (especially once the pandemic enforced social distancing), eSignatures have become the standard way to sign contracts for many organizations.

How Contract Management Has Evolved

While leveraging technology and expertise has revolutionized the “nuts and bolts” of contract generation, this created a new challenge: the management of the contract lifecycle itself has lagged as some organizations have as many as 40,000 contracts to manage from the time a contract is generated until it expires.  Lack of a centralized approach to contract management has resulted in challenges for organizations ranging from inconsistency of contracts terms, inability to quickly identify which contracts are affected by changing business circumstances and huge fees for outside counsel review of contracts.  According to the Harvard Business Review, it’s been estimated that inefficient contract management causes firms to lose between 5% to 40% of value on a given deal, depending on circumstances.  Despite those challenges, many organizations have still failed to implement a centralized contract management approach.  Why?  In many cases, it’s simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

Just as the “nuts and bolts” of contract generation has evolved, so has the management of contracts throughout the lifecycle itself.  The technology for managing and automating the lifecycle of contracts has evolved considerably, leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to help automate the contract management process. Expertise to maximizing the use of that technology has become key to the success of contract management today.  Combining technology and expertise has improved and streamlined the contract management process through automation – from creation and tracking of templates (and individual clauses within those templates) to creation of each contract, through contract review, approval, execution, performance tracking, renewal and (eventually) expiration.

Technology + Expertise not only equals Process Improvement; it also equals Process Automation.  When it comes to the management of contracts, the excuse “that’s the way we’ve always done it” for not evolving is no longer acceptable.  Evolve your contract management process through technology and expertise to be efficient and effective to the point that you can say “that’s not the way we do it anymore.”

For more information about Cobra’s Contract Management services, click here.

Trust the Process

By: Doug Kaminski
Chief Revenue Officer, Cobra Legal Solutions

Trust the Process, Because Processes Have to Evolve to Lead to Improvement.

We’re in the midst of the NBA basketball playoffs and the top seed in the Eastern Conference this year is the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers used to be bad – really bad. They won just ten games in an 82-game season a mere five years ago. Back then, their general manager talked about trusting the process to building a better team and one of his first draft picks, Joel Embiid, was a player that (due to injuries) didn’t even play for two seasons. Echoing their GM, Embiid encouraged fans to “trust the process”. Embiid became the player most associated with the process and even adopted “The Process” as his nickname. When he finally played, he developed into one of the best players in the NBA.

Sometimes, processes have to evolve to enable organizations to do things better. We may “trust the process”, but if we don’t continue to evolve the process, that process may cause us to fall behind and be less efficient than we can be. From an eDiscovery standpoint, processes are always evolving. Here are examples of how eDiscovery processes have evolved in recent years.

EDISCOVERY PROCESS EVOLUTION

In looking at how eDiscovery processes have evolved, let’s take a look at them phase-by-phase:

Information Governance: The process associated with InfoGov used to be primarily procedural, which is why the term “records management” used to be synonymous with “information governance”. Not anymore. Now, effective information governance leverages technology to enable companies to identify where important and sensitive data is located within the company and also helps identify data that can be defensibly deleted. You can’t have an effective InfoGov program any more without leveraging technology.

Identification and Preservation: As we recently discussed in this post, a recent phenomenon in legal hold management is to identify, lock down and preserve ESI in place in the cloud enterprise systems that organizations use every day to govern their information. This is not only the evolution of one process – it’s the linking of three processes more and more into one: InfoGov, Identification and Preservation. Now, that’s process improvement!

Collection: Collection of ESI used to be performed at a custodian level, and it often had to performed in person, by collection specialists going to offices to physically collect entire data stores from custodians, which was inefficient and expensive. Today, collections are performed largely remotely and because of data preserved in place, can be limited to targeted data likely to be responsive to the goals for the discovery effort. Mass collections are no longer required.

Processing: This phase even has the word “process” in it. Remember the days when processing platforms used to be separate from review platforms and you had to transfer data from the processing platform to the review platform – manually? Now, they’re integrated and processing has continued to become more efficient and effective as computer processors (there’s what word again) become more powerful.

Analysis: The ability to perform analytics on the data associated with your eDiscovery projects has grown by leaps and bounds. Dashboards are common these days at a project level or even across all projects or cases. Artificial intelligence analytics are being introduced in more and more areas of the eDiscovery workflow. This process may be evolving more than any other.

Review: Certainly, review has evolved considerably with review teams able to work remotely, able to leverage predictive coding technologies and able to track metrics associated with the review process to continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of review.

Production: Remember how productions used to be delivered? In a series of CD or DVD disks? Now, they can be delivered securely via secured file transfer protocols (SFTP) without leaving your desk.

Presentation: Even presentation has evolved – during the pandemic, we are conducting more hearings, depositions and even some trials via web conferencing. Despite the challenges of a pandemic, process improvement still found a way to get the job done and virtual presentations events are here to stay.

Process improvement doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it happens through experts understanding process optimization and how to leverage technology to make those processes more efficient and cost effective. There are experts who are immersed in eDiscovery processes and workflows, who understand technology and work with their clients in order to improve processes for those clients. Technology + Expertise = Process Improvement. So, trust the process. It worked for Joel Embiid and the 76ers!

For more information about Cobra’s Dedicated Resources and Legal Process Optimization services, click here.

The Lines Between Information Governance and Legal Hold Are Becoming Blurred – and That’s a Good Thing

By: Doug Kaminski
Chief Revenue Officer, Cobra Legal Solutions

If you’re familiar with today’s Electronic Discovery Reference model (EDRM), you know that 1) the model shows distinct lines between each of the phases and 2) the far left-side of the model actually includes a model within the EDRM model.  The Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM) recently replaced a circle that simply said “Information Governance”.  So, the EDRM model now actually gives you two models in one!

Regardless of whether it’s represented by a circle or the entire IGRM model, the Information Governance phase has been the only phase represented by a circle for years.  Why?  Because it is the only phase considered to be enterprise wide and perpetual.  Today, however, the lines for where InfoGov ends and Preservation and Legal Hold begins are becoming blurred.  And that’s a good thing.  Here’s why.

The Two Components of Legal Hold

Though we talk about “legal hold” as one process, there are actually two components of legal hold that many organizations grapple with to manage the duty to preserve potentially responsive ESI today.  With the challenges that many organizations face today in terms of volume and variety of sources of ESI and more remote workforces, both components are essential today to effectively manage your preservation and legal hold workflows.

Legal Hold Notification Management

When the duty to preserve ESI commences (which can often occur even before the case begins), it’s important for the party with ESI responsive to the case to notify potential custodians that they need to preserve that potentially responsive ESI in the form of a legal hold notice.  Failure to do so could lead to spoliation of ESI and possible sanctions.  You not only want to issue hold notices, but you also want to confirm that each custodian has received and acknowledged their duty to preserve the ESI subject to legal hold.  This not only means refraining from actively deleting ESI, but it also means suspending automatic deletion programs for email, texts, chat messages or any other form of ESI for which an auto-delete program may have been implemented.

Legal hold notification becomes a lot more challenging when you have a large number of potential custodians and/or an extended time frame for the case.  The larger the custodian pool, the more difficult it is to track confirmation from each custodian that they have read and understand the hold notice.  The longer the case goes, the more likely you will have to periodically remind those custodians of their preservation obligation by re-issuing hold notices (and confirming receipt and understanding once again) during the case.

Managing this process via spreadsheets can be time consuming, complicated and unwieldy, so it makes sense to automate the notification process working with a provider to implement a legal hold solution that enforces a defensible and repeatable process for legal hold notification. You need someone experienced who can help you leverage the legal hold solution to automate the delivery and tracking of hold notices, provide template examples to ensure you’re covering all of the bases in your instructions and also provide audit trails, powerful dashboards and robust reporting to enable you to know where you stand on legal hold activities to save considerable time and cost in managing legal hold notifications.

Preservation in Place Legal Hold Management

The more recent phenomenon in legal hold management is to lock down and preserve ESI in place in the cloud enterprise systems that organizations use every day to govern their information.  This is where working with a provider that can help you get the most out of your legal hold solution also enables your organization to begin to benefit from blurring the lines between InfoGov and Legal Hold.  The ability for the legal hold solution to integrate with the systems your organization uses every day to track and manage communications and work product – such as Office365, human resources (HR) and even matter management platforms – and automatically preserve data in place, streamlines previously manual processes that were necessary to preserve that data.  This saves considerable time and cost while also reducing the risk that come with manual processes.

In doing so, your legal hold solution facilitates key InfoGov activities, such as defensible deletion.  Automatically keeping track of what ESI can’t be deleted when preserved in place and what ESI becomes available to be deleted (once the duty to preserve no longer exists) simplifies the defensible deletion process, leading to better overall organizational data hygiene.  InfoGov and Preservation/Legal Hold have become interwoven instead of the separate and distinct processes they were before.

Effective Legal Hold Management Today

As noted above, an effective legal hold solution today 1) supports the management of legal hold notifications, 2) integrates with cloud enterprise systems to preserve potentially responsive ESI in place, and 3) provides a defensible audit trail.  And that solution should be part of an overall eDiscovery approach that supports collection, processing, analysis, review and production as well.  Perhaps it’s time to think beyond the event driven EDRM model and look at this holistically – the lines between phases are getting very blurry!

For more information about Cobra Legal Hold powered by Relativity (and other Cobra eDiscovery services), click here.

Where I’m From

When crafting this post, I was considering a number of different topics that are relevant to legal operations professionals. From eDiscovery to contract management to aligning value for allocation of resources, I thought about all the current projects we’re working on with our clients and how I could tie that all together. Read more

Creating and Driving Value for Consumers of Legal Services

The news is full of predictions for change in the business of legal services. Disruptive technologies, new entrants to the market, demand for legal process improvement, and ensuring that data integrity and security are solid are all important issues but detract from the main driver. The lack of perceived value derived for the consumers of legal services is the driving force. With the rise of the legal operations function within corporate legal departments and the subsequent demand for receiving more value and innovation from their outside counsel, optimizing the delivery of legal services has become the main focus. This is a big shift in the driving force for change within the profession as most all prior drivers have been largely cost based. Since litigation, investigations, and review work (discovery, contracts, and due diligence) are the largest bucket of legal work performed within most organizations, applying the optimization approach to these areas can produce significant savings in cost and time spent. With market pressures and a decade of procurement measures pushing the cost for discovery services to a low ebb, the need for process improvement is that much more important. That said, this is more than just adopting new technology to automate certain tasks or solving for lowest cost option. Much of the ethos of legal services and their delivery is changing to a value-based mindset that focuses on easier access and collaboration while providing the needed improvements in process to optimize results.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE EYEBALLS

Richard Susskind, OBE FRSE, has long been a proponent of the transformation of the legal profession to increase value and access to justice. In a commentary on this topic for Harvard Law School (https://thepractice.law.harvard.edu/article/speakers-corner-richard-susskind/), he calls for “the ‘decomposition’ of legal work into component tasks, the more routine and repetitive of which should be undertaken in ways that are much more efficient than the methods of traditional, one-to-one consultative advisers who handcraft and charge by the hour.” This breaking down of legal tasks into a matrix based on risk, cost, and complexity leads us into a world of insourcing, outsourcing, and computerizing the process-based and more administrative work clients are no longer willing to pay to be done by more traditional and higher cost means. Basically, optimizing the legal function to reduce the need for the most expensive eyeballs on all tasks and freeing up their time for the more complex, higher risk matters. Though many efficiency measures are considered in this approach, the most recent Chief Legal Officer survey by industry experts Altman Weil has shown that outsourcing to non-law firm vendors has produced the biggest impact: The top four items named in the survey are all resource realignment efforts that follow the approach advocated by Susskind. All have produced the results desired with somewhat mixed results from using temporary or contract workers. Note that the knowledge and metrics-based initiatives, as well as process improvement, have also shown early success, but it is just too soon to tell the full impact.

THE PRICE OF LIGHT

AC Nielsen, founder of the global information measurement company of the same name, said that “the price of light is cheaper than the cost of darkness”. Analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and knowledge management are all tools and disciplines now being applied to the legal profession to gain more insight on deriving more value by learning from the past while also making better decisions in the future. The same have also been harnessed to automate routine, predictable, low risk tasks to further the impact. As corporations look to drive efficiencies across their operations, they are employing these tools to help take more control of their internal legal processes in lieu of deploying more personnel. The 3rd Annual Analytics Survey conducted by the Coalition of Technology Resources for Lawyers (CTRL), partnered with The Information Governance Initiative (IGI), surveyed corporate in-house counsel to determine how they use data analytics in eDiscovery, Information Governance (IG), and other disciplines. The clear majority of respondents said that data analytics will be “will be very important, will be considered indispensable, and [their] use will be widespread” among the legal profession over the next 10 years.

Due to the large volumes of data involved, analytics in eDiscovery continues to lead the way with “95% of practitioners indicating that their spending in this area will grow or stay level.” Additionally, three times as many organizations indicate they will “start using analytics for eDiscovery in the next 12 months.” Other use cases for analytics are showing increased usage rates, with massive growth in Outcome Analysis (up 42% over last year), Information Governance (up 78%), and Contract Review (up 146%). A detailed infographic with more detail on the usage and use cases can be found here: http://ctrlinitiative.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/11097-IGI-CTRL-Infographic.png Not surprisingly, culling irrelevant and non-responsive data is still the top use of analytics for eDiscovery but true early case assessment (ECA) has gained in popularity as has the use of analytics to speed up the privilege review process. Beyond putting the most relevant data in front of reviewers, analytics and machine learning also reduce the volume of people needed while increasing throughput. A two-year study of over 10,000 cases by a leading review platform developer found that the use of analytics allowed reviewers to code nearly 3 times as many documents and the review team size was 36% smaller than those not using analytics. Defending a legal position, making better “go/no go” decisions, learning more about case facts and key people earlier, and arguing proportionality are all made more impactful by knowing what is inside your data through analytics. Use of related data insights are now becoming more common, too. For example, many companies and their outside counsel are now performing “information governance screens” on their data to determine the source, age of the data, and volume then comparing this to records retention schedules and legal hold periods to determine how much data should have been disposed of prior to the legal hold being enacted. These insights into upstream information governance help inform where to focus for defensible disposition initiatives. Sensitive data screens can similarly be done to help control leakage.

CONTROL YOUR DATA’S DESTINY

One of the more important movements in legal operations is the push toward centralization of data or, at the very least, getting closer to the sources of data to reduce the messy handoffs in discovery and to gain more insight. Centralization when under control and direction of the company also helps in the data security functions, defensible disposition, and compliance. Borrowing from the environmental movement, centralization of data also allows us to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” much more readily. A litigation repository, especially one grouped by custodian, provides more insight into your data patterns such as most active custodians, which have the largest data volumes, and more. Single sourcing significantly reduces the need to continuously collect data from the same sources over and over. Reusing decisions in addition to reusing data furthers the savings in time and cost. Applying decisions from past cases, especially for privilege, reduces the need to look at the same data again. Creating a “privilege bank” with a master database of the data and previous privilege decisions makes that process even easier. Other decisions and data can be recycled to spot trends across cases, yielding additional insights that may help tie to outside counsel selection by matter area, budgeting, and more. Process improvement is now being applied to discovery in the form of standardized workflows, protocols, playbooks, and level setting with reviewers and outside counsel. This produces more consistent results while also ensuring better quality control and predictability in outcomes.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Through a legal process optimization approach and judicious use of outsourcing, insourcing, and technology assistance, we can significantly improve the value delivered from legal services. While doing so, apply these basic ideas in addition to those outlined above:
• Move beyond pricing focus to a process focus
• Don’t automate bad processes
• If it doesn’t make a difference, why even do it?
• Innovation is a team sport

Sincerely,

 

The Guru (aka: Doug Kaminski)

CLOC 2019: BEYOND LEGALOPS 1.0

Today we’re talking with Doug Kaminski, EVP of Cobra Legal Solutions and a veteran of legal industry conferences spanning over two decades, about the recent Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

What did you think about the educational sessions at CLOC2019?

Having been to almost every legal conference out there, I can honestly say that I’m impressed with the depth and quality of the educational content at CLOC. Unlike some of the conferences early this year, the sessions have fresh content that’s delivered in a meaningful way by thought
leaders and high-caliber practitioners from in-house legal teams and legal service providers. The topics were well thought out and timely, full of information and best practices that attendees wanted to hear. I was in a number of sessions that were standing room only despite having ample space…not something I’ve seen at other conferences. What struck me the most was the lively engagement with the attendees that sometimes became spirited debates. To me, that’s a sure sign that the content is excellent and thought provoking. I was part of many conversations after sessions that carried on the themes and discussions, both with the speakers and between fellow attendees. We all hope to come away from professional conferences with good ideas and maybe a new perspective or two, and, in my opinion, CLOC delivers on that.

After attending CLOC, what do you see for the industry? What is in store for in-house/outside counsel, corporations and law firms in the short term and the long term?

I think that the legal profession is at an interesting inflection point. I’m seeing signs from some legal operations managers that their approach and initiatives have now gone beyond what I call LegalOps version 1.0, mainly legal spend reduction based on procurement controls and measures. Those who have graduated from pricing exercises to true process improvement are focusing on value creation and optimizing all their resources for the legal services required. Looking ahead, both short and long term, I think we’ll see more collaboration between those requiring legal services and their supply chain. I characterize the delivery of legal services as a supply chain as this value orientation looks at all the possible resources to meet the needs, whether insourced, outsourced via traditional means, automated, or through newer legal service providers. As legal operations managers seek to optimize their processes to derive higher value, they will naturally source from whichever resource helps them accomplish this.

What is your approach to “sales” at a conference like CLOC? How do you get people to pay attention to Cobra when there are so many providers vying for the potential clients’ attention?

At this stage in the evolution of legal operations, there’s a tremendous need and desire for sharing knowledge and, frankly, blowing up old ideas related to the delivery of legal services if those ideas no longer meet the value goals of the modern legal department. As such, there’s a lot of analysis and process mapping taking place to identify the best ways to perform legal service-related tasks. This means that a LOT of conversations are taking place between legal operations managers and their peers, with providers, with subject matter experts, with counsel, and with outside consultants. I’m fortunate that I’ve been a part of many of these conversations in various roles over the years, so I’ve been able to add perspective for legal operations managers, validate assumptions or point out gaps, connect them with peers, and help them navigate and prioritize their value optimization initiatives. This has allowed me to go well beyond the usual service provider focus of “X dollars for Y services” to one of true collaboration with our clients to leave their processes better than when we began. In other words, I think that the sales role at a provider like Cobra Legal is far more about helping clients solve problems than it is merely growing top-line revenue. When you approach a conference like CLOC with that type of mindset, you get excited about meeting with people who are trying to re-engineer their legal processes because you know you can probably help them or, at the very least, point them in the right direction. I look forward to many more conversations with potential clients for that reason because Cobra Legal can make a difference and, in the process, help the overall profession mature and grow.