Andrew Giverin, Partner and co-head of NewLaw, PwC
Catrin Griffiths, Editor, The Lawyer
Craig McKeown, Partner, forensic services, PwC

Round the table:
John Abramson, General counsel Europe, Travelers
Sabine Chalmers, Group general counsel, BT
Laurence Cook, Legal counsel and legal operations manager, Markerstudy
Rachael Davidson, UK general counsel and company secretary, National Grid Ventures
John Dockery, Head of legal operations, Nokia
Jamie Fraser, Director of legal operations and innovation, Smiths Group
Brian Hanlon, Head of UK legal operations and development, Sky UK
Sally-Ann James, General counsel, Metro Bank
David McCahon, General counsel, global head of commercial, innovation and technology, Barclays
Maria Passemard, Head of legal operations, John Lewis
Mark Turner, COO legal, compliance and risk, TP ICAP

Catrin Griffiths: Can you give us some sense of where you all are on the transformation journey – particularly the pain points and what problems need solving?

John Dockery: I’m striving to understand what operations are about and also what our priorities are internally. I think we’re fairly mature. We have had an initiative going on for more than a year, where we try to create and deploy AI for certain types of our contractual processes, but in many ways we are still immature.

The key things on my mind are demand and deployment management. There’s an antipathy towards in-house time tracking. However, if we’re talking about how to deploy available resources, what are the creative ways to figure out what our departments are doing?

Automation is key for us, as well as finding more areas and opportunities to automate. Change management is top in my mind.

Laurence Cook: We’ve gone on to a journey from selecting a contract management platform to looking at a self-service tool, which the business can use to generate their own templates. And we also have to develop a legal portal for the team that will allow them to select work, to track how the they perform and also have an interface with the business to get better instructions to legal. We’ve been very active, with lots of acquisitions, and manage over 100 companies within the group. It’s hard to manage this change going forward.

David McCahon: There’s so much work to be done in terms of what is the right approach. We have a lot of technology within legal at Barclays, but the question is: how do we implement a more programmatic approach around that and enable ourselves to work out what direction to take as a platform going forward?

in-house lawyers manage transformation

Catrin Griffiths: One theme appears to be scepticism around tech as a magic bullet at any point. Culture is still a huge thing, including how to explain what the lawyers do and understanding what the processes are. How would you advise a head of legal or legal ops person in a department that doesn’t necessarily have access to process experts?

Andrew Giverin: The key point is process mapping to drill down what the requirements are and identifying the problem you are trying to solve. Our most successful projects have been when we’ve process-mapped an end-to-end solution into the business.

in-house lawyers manage transformation
Maria Passemard, John Lewis

Maria Passemard: Firms often have process mappers that you can borrow for business workshops.

Andrew Giverin: I think you have to view it as a philosophical exercise. It’s great if there is a dedicated project manager, but you must approach this from the perspective of justifying what you’ve got. That’s the only way you can take a fresh look, before you’ve adopted or used a particular technology platform that you’re effectively stuck with integrating over a period of time.

John Abramson: Make sure you insist upon a sandbox, not just a trial period or demo, but actually have a live instance of whatever tool you’re going to buy in a small contained space. That helps to visualise what you’re doing before carrying out a global deployment. Also attempt to get as much of that in the selection process. I haven’t tried it before, but it seems to make great intuitive sense to me. You have to grapple with a process and lay out what yours is as much as you can. Therefore, when you first make contact with your tech provider, at least you have settled those big points.

Rachael Davidson: If you have functions operating independently without a complete partnership, it’s pointless selecting the best process if a business doesn’t understand how to use the service, or if it still expects legal to take responsibility for things we think should be done in the business.

Sabine Chalmers: It is also recognising that often the solution you are looking for already exists somewhere else in the business. At my former company, we had a gigantic operation in Brazil with a big back-office centre that served the rest of the organisation. We ended up with the technological solution that finance had already used for tax provisioning and just blowing that out to the legal and litigation management. In fact, the provider was not a legal services one, but they worked with us to create it. The other example was in the compliance team. We ended up using what marketing was doing around data analytics to spot patterns within compliance.

Mark Turner: We have used some of our cost-reduction strategy. So, for example, at the beginning, we put in place a matter management system and we’ve enjoyed major cost savings. That has given us a real opportunity to explore interesting areas, which allows and manages cost avoidance in sectors such as litigation or other types of solutions, which otherwise we would not have the business case for.

Brian Hanlon: We found that long-term transformation was about our people. For quite a few years, we were training lawyers to push back on the business and say no. This was to shift a mindset from private practice to in-house work so they could work in a more sustainable way. We had a lot of success with that, but discovered it could only take us so far. Essentially, we were only looking at one side of the equation and were changing the behaviours of our lawyers.

We found that by putting operational processes in place, structurally changing the way the business engages with legal addresses the other side of the equation. Giverin: What do you think they get in return for that? It must be irritating, because presumably, they now have to sit in the queue.

Brian Hanlon: As part of the portal, we have a lot of self-serve options for their templates, or previously given advice, to automate the process. It’s all available on the portal and we’re adding to those as quickly as possible. We said: “If you need to engage your lawyer in this process, then we are rolling out this portal, but we’re also giving you a lot of self-help tools.”

By being able to take some of those means they can work in the state they want and immediately get responses for those requests. When it comes to the lawyers, there is no guaranteed response time.

Craig McKeown: There are some very quick wins in operations. But in terms of putting the technology in place, sometimes a lot of quick wins come from tech that already exists. There is a move to have more of an enterprise-wide solution or a legal operating system in the market. So we are building matter management, knowledge management, contract life-cycle management and so on into one platform.

Jamie Fraser: I think there is a tech backlash on the way, as people have failed technology with painful implementations. The interesting thing I’ve seen lately is this rise of other small, medium or big consultancies – kind of legal engineers. There are people who can help us with procurement and implementation and we have probably got rather good procurement functions – I’m comfortable with that. But choice is where we will potentially slip up – I would be a big advocate for spending more money for a third party to look after that.

roundtable delegates discuss in-house lawyers manage transformation
l-r: Sally-Ann James, Metro Bank; John Dockery, Nokia; Laurence Cook, Markerstudy; John Abramson, Travelers

Sally-Ann James: Bringing in a third party for a broad overview of what options are out there can be useful for lawyers, as we are keen to know the answers to everything. I would be very interested in understanding who those organisations are, otherwise I’m going to end up with nine or 10 pieces of tech, or whatever fits. Often I have found that there is somebody within the legal team who is technology-focused, so he or she will be the one who drives these efforts.

Catrin Griffiths: Thank you everyone. I think one of the interesting points raised is this idea of lateral knowledge sharing. Years ago I remember writing an article on the disruptor GCs. They got together because they were all in start-ups and didn’t have the budget to ask for investments. It is rather a golden age for legal operations heads – it is a positive experience born out of disruption and challenge that pushes everyone to talk to each other about the problems they share.