The Future of the Legal Profession: Georgetown Ground Zero

This earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending Georgetown’s annual conference. This year’s event, Welcome to the Future: Trends in the Delivery of Corporate Legal Services, was held on March 9th.

In a welcome change of pace, I didn’t have any formal speaking obligations so I was free to take notes and enjoy the range of very impressive speakers from major US law firms, in-house legal teams and innovative legal support vendors.

The conference centered on the trends impacting the future of the legal profession and included lively discussions and debates on key issues such as the relationship between law firms and in-house legal departments, characterizing and defining value, the impact of legal brands and innovation in the legal services supply chain.

The conference’s self-described focus follows: “There is much talk in the air of a revolution in the delivery of corporate legal services – but what’s actually happening on the ground? This intensive one-day conference is designed to provide concrete insights into how corporate legal departments and outside service providers can collaborate to provide valuable and cost-effective legal services.”

Some key takeaways for me included:

Six Sigma and Pixy Dust

Part of the long-standing debate is whether law firms will act more like LPOs or if LPOs will act more like law firms (also recently discussed on an ABA podcast here.

The conference featured a visible example of a law firm acting like LPO. On a very interesting panel, representatives from Seyfarth Shaw and Wolverine Worldwide outlined their approach to a more known productive relationship using enhanced productivity approaches. What is titled ‘Seyfarth Lean’ is the application of Six Sigma lean and Seyfarth “pixy dust.” While there are continuing challenges with adoption internally and issues with compensation systems, the application of Six Sigma is certainly a step toward ‘law firms acting like LPOs’

More details on this arrangement are available in a previous ACC post.

 

Legal Supply Chain

As firms continue to embrace multi-source, multi-shore legal outsourcing, the mocker “LPO” may take on a new form as the ‘legal supply chain.’ The legal supply chain concept embraces work that is delivered in the most cost effective manner from a variety of sources. (The overall ‘supply chain’ orchestrator is either the law firm or the in-house legal team.) In addition to traditional LPOs, the supply chain also incorporates the likes of Axiom whose founder Mark Harris also spoke on the ‘legal supply chain’ panel at the Georgetown event.

As the closing speaker for the ‘legal supply chain’ panel, Pangea3 Co-CEO David Perla spoke on various LPO topics including:

  • The findings from a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters as they were exploring LPOs to acquire. The exercise surveyed why law firms and in-house legal departments worked with LPOs, (Hint: the primary reason was not cost.)
  • The three components of quality (people, processes and technology) and how these specifically relate to LPO service delivery.
  • How LPOs are not competitors with law firms because the overall pyramid of available legal work is always expanding due to the growing complexity of legal matters and an increasingly regulated business environment.

 

One of the interesting undertones of the Georgetown event was the dissolution of DC-based Howrey. Partners voted on dissolution Wednesday of Georgetown event. More details and implications on this shortly.

Written by Fronterion

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