Friday, December 10, 2010

Reduce Legal Expense or Value Based Billing which camp do you sit in?

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the Corporate Counsel’s Controlling Legal Cost Seminar. There were a number of fantastic presentations, John Weber (TyMetrix, General Manager) and Steven Williams (Managing Director of General Counsel roundtable) presented the findings of the Real Rate Report. For me this is always interesting, but I’ve seen it before and done the presentation myself. What knocked my socks off was Amy Schulman’s (Pfizer’s GC) and Lisa Damon’s (Managing Partner, Seyfarth Shaw) presentations.

Both set the tone for what Value Based Billing should really be all about. As Amy put it (I’m paraphrasing), in the first instance it cannot be about saving money. You need to focus on how to truly drive value (For her this was about deepening the relationship and creating predictability in their budgets). If you successfully do that you’ll get the greatest bang for your buck and ultimately will save money and get better outcomes.

Lisa did a great job of getting the audience involved and identifies ways that the industry itself can start to move more in the direction of Value Based Fees. Many folks agreed TRUST was the big hurdle and a requirement to making Value Based Billing a success. There was also agreement that clients need to get comfortable with the fact that when done right Value Based Billing is a win-win for law firms and clients. There will be situations where the law firm makes more on a deal because they efficiently and effectively managed it (which is what we are all driving for after all).

Another comment that I found very insightful was from Cindy Westervelt of Staples (who joined Lisa during her presentation). Cindy noted that as Staples began their transformation into more value based arrangements a change in mindset was required for both internal and external attorneys. One example she cited was that everyone wanted to do A+ work all the time, yet not all matters require A+ work (and the associated costs that go with an A+ effort). “Sometime it is okay to do just enough” Cindy commented. By getting everyone on the same page and working together on identifying the A+ and the NOT A+ matters they created a positive environment for all that was a win-win for both Staples and the firms.

In reflecting on this seminar and a number of other conferences and meetings I’ve participated in during 2010, I see two camps forming. One camp is highly focused on saving money through auditing of bills, modifying rate agreements and other tactics (including the establishment of AFA arrangements), while another seems focused on driving to Value Based Billing with a strategy not so much about reducing legal expense but about getting the best value for each dollar spent. In my experience both strategies can work, but you need to decide what camp you sit in. Those trying to straddle the fence may find they’re sending conflicting messages and ultimately may not achieve the results they expect.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Technology good...Knowing what to do with your data...Priceless

It may seem odd to give a shout out to a competitor, but my hat is off to Jim Tallman, CEO of Datacert. Tallman joined the company a couple years back and has done some things that his predecessors failed to do. Way back in early 2003 there was a clear shift in our market, clients were demanding a single, integrated solution for matter management and e-billing. Their budgets no longer could cover buying and supporting both systems separately nor did people want to deal with the challenges of integrating the two. At that time TyMetrix and some of our competitors made the move to build new platforms to support this market shift or added new capabilities into their existing products. For whatever reason at that time DataCert failed to see or ignored the shift. A few years into the change and in an attempt to catch up to the market they acquired Corprasoft and made a run at creating a “unified” product, Corporate Legal Desktop (CLD) 10. Based on my knowledge, despite heavy marketing their new “unified” product never took off or was accepted by the market.

While I can’t say for certain, it seems that when Tallman joined DC he was able to analyze the landscape and recognized their solutions were not at parity with competitors and to his credit he focused attention on building a new product line that based on what he describes should bring Datacert into some level of parity with the market. Seven years of TyMetrix experience in building, implementing, innovating and improving our platform proves it will still take some time for Datacert’s products to get up to speed, work out the typical kinks in new products and ultimately catch up to where the capabilities and stability of existing platforms are today. But, so far their heading in the right direction by finally getting into the game. My only bone of contention with Mr. Tallman and Datacert is their marketing assertions that they are the first or only e-billing and matter management platform designed to support the needs of the law department from the ground up. Back in 2003 TyMetrix saw the trend and developed the CT TyMetrix360° platform from the ground up for just that purpose. With more than 6 years in the market TyMetrix360° has nearly 400,000 members operating in the collaborative platform and nearly 2 million matters, associated with over $35B in legal spend. I welcome Datacert to the market, the key now will be in successfully transitioning from a landscape of ideation and marketing into one of execution and delivery.

Having delivered a patented, integrated platform over 6 years ago, TyMetrix has found that at this point in time that General Counsel and law department leadership teams are less interested in the bells and whistles of technology for technology’s sake. High performing legal departments are making unprecedented and growing demands for the actionable information and insights technology can bring…if structured and implemented strategically. And, they want this information and insight at their fingertips when they need it most. The demand for reliable benchmarks, meaningful KPIs, and detailed invoice and matter data, combined with data sources beyond what e-Billing and matter management systems can provide (i.e., H.R. data, accounts payable data, document management data, etc.) is growing rapidly. A recent example was the successful launch of the Real Rate Report by CT TyMetrix and General Counsel Roundtable. Providing industry wide insights into the drivers of law firm hourly rates.

It will be interesting to see how the market addresses this new trend. Who will lead and who will follow?