Running Legal Like A Business - Ch. 14 - Right Sourcing

In Running Legal Like A Business by Connie Brenton and Susan Lambreth, PLI Press, 2021 chapter 14 author Kunoor Chopra, VP of Legal Services at Elevate, addresses right-sourcing, definition: "placing the right people in the right location, working on the right tasks with the right tools and technology."

Chopra notes notes that "General Counsel are developing frameworks to decide what legal work to eliminate, automate, outsource or retain in-house." She categorizes right-sourcing as a commitment to gradual and effective change (as opposed to radical innovation), including saying "no" to exceptions. 

She traces the beginning of law departments' shift of external legal work from law firms to other legal services providers to about 2004. The evolution she describes begins with legal services arbitrage then shifts to process efficiency, climbs from automation of adjacent services to legal services, and finally arrives at data driven, predictive insights.  Personally I would place the origins of insights in parallel with process efficiency, but understand Chopra's presentation corresponds to the introduction of artificial intelligence with capabilities like auto extraction.

Chopra starts with the "right people" and provides an excellent preliminary checklist for determining the right resource for the job. On building the right team in the March 24th Barometer (Editor Heather D. Nevitt) Max Hübner, managing director of Novagraaft Netherlands, notes: “When looking at our workforce: think ahead. What do you need for skill sets by the end of this year and next year? Do not worry too much about knowledge, The difference is made in skills: business savvy, resilience, flexibility and tech-savvy."

Next, Chopra turns attention to project task unbundling across multiple entities.  A decade ago at a Hildebrandt COO & CFO conference overnight I rewrote a talk to be responsive to a Susskind keynote.  I presented a slide on how our legal department unbundled the handing of M&A and Litigation matters.  A disconsolate attorney opined that if this was the future of law he intended to retire. Today with work routinely allocated among firms, departments and law companies, one can hardly imagine such melodramatic response.

Chopra notes that once you have the right people in place it is important to create a "legal front gate" that assigns incoming work to the right resources, standardizes processes with playbooks, guides and checklists, and facilitates metrics tracking.  For 2022, our ops team is highly focused on this type of process optimization.

Third, Chopra turns to the importance of selecting the right technologies - increasingly incorporating artificial intelligence - and keeping current in a quickly evolving field.  She groups technologies into 6 useful categories: Communication, Workflow, Legal Project Management, Analytics, Machine Learning and Process Efficiency tools.

In conclusion she reiterates that change focuses on improving existing work processes, not radically overhauling operations and that the organizing principal is right sourcing the work. I heartily agree.  No blank slates!  Start with documenting best practices within your organization, identify pain points and educate the team on what's possible to bring them along on the journey.