Today is the launch of Ballard360 Insider. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to the fact that we are seeing a dramatic rise in legal professionals shifting to focus on legal operations. There is no shortage of daily news articles about how clients are demanding that law firms continue to provide high-quality legal work, but with greater efficiency and at a lower cost. Law firms are listening, and roles similar to mine have exploded in recent years.
The Client Value and Innovation Team, my department at Ballard Spahr, did not exist five years ago. Now, the team has more than 20 business professionals. The team focuses their efforts on listening to the needs of our clients, understanding what value means to them, and delivering cost-effective and innovative legal solutions that meet those needs. With this shift, our clients are also hiring legal operations professionals to manage outside counsel engagements, reduce legal expenses, and implement technology to do work more efficiently. As law firms and clients ramp up their legal operations capabilities, it is more important than ever that they work collaboratively to make meaningful change.
A great indicator of growth within legal operations is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). Our firm believes in CLOC’s mission and has been a sponsor for the last several years. I applaud CLOC’s recent decision to allow law firms, like Ballard Spahr, to join their organization. It sends an important message that CLOC values its law firm members and believes that client/law firm collaboration is the key to our collective future successes. I hope other client-run organizations, like the ACC, will follow CLOC’s lead and open up membership opportunities to law firm participants.
Altman Weil said it best when it stated, “The legal world is changing dramatically. There needs to be a better appreciation by both clients and law firms that we are in this together and are partners in an effort to provide high quality, cost-effective and seamless legal services. We can’t continue to operate independently and collectively achieve long term success.” It would be too easy for law firms to move full steam ahead in designing innovative solutions and technology they think clients want and need when in fact clients do not want, do not need, and will not use the solution. It would not be a productive use of time or resources and would serve to delay the progress we desperately need to make in the legal industry.
Our successes have demonstrated the firm’s commitment to making our clients the center of everything we do.
I’m proud of all that Ballard Spahr’s Client Value and Innovation team has done over the last few years. Our successes have demonstrated the firm’s commitment to making our clients the center of everything we do. We try to have as many proactive conversations with clients as we can to ask them how they define “value” in their relationships with outside counsel. When we first embarked on this journey, my assumption was that most client definitions of “value” would be focused largely on cost reduction. I was surprised to find it is more nuanced than that. Clients tell me cost is obviously of tremendous importance; however, the true value lies in forming collaborative partnerships with their outside counsel that result in cost predictability, efficiency, and the delivery of successful results. Our goal is to continue to listen to our clients and to develop customized solutions to meet those needs because if we work together, we can’t go wrong.
I am hopeful that Ballard360 Insider will be a place to explore trends we are seeing in law firm legal operations and innovation space, to talk about things we see that are working (and not working), and to identify ways we can all assume more active roles in taking legal operations and innovation to the next level. We invite you to reach out to the team to suggest topics, discuss ideas you want to explore, and ask questions.