February 2013

I ran across a terrific post by Sampriti Ganguli of Corporate Executive Board, 9 Efficiency Trends to Watch for in Legal.  The author identified the source of the conclusions drawn”

As we reflect back on this past year, it’s worth looking back on what CEB has learned in analyzing legal departments’ budgets from over 300 different companies this past year (we’ve been doing this for a decade, so we’re homing in on some long term trends.)

The trends are all things many, including me, have been writing about for some time (that’s comforting).  The nine trends are:

1.  Moving more work in-house.  Outside counsel almost always lose on make versus buy decisions.

2.  Use non-lawyer professionals more often.  A good paralegal is worth more than a poor lawyer.  Take advantage of them.

3.  Invest in legal operations capabilities.  Legal ops control costs.

4.  Invest selectively in legal technologies. Applause for matter management and ebilling technologies.

5.  Unbundle legal services, particularly in litigation.  This is an area of huge potential savings.

6.  Focus on litigation management and oversight.  How departments operate without doing this escapes me.

7.  Use smaller firms. (So how much of their clients’ money do big firms invest in art?  Check out Dewey and Howrey)

8.  Reduce the number of law firms.

9. Use alternative fee arrangements judiciously.

From my vantage point, these are on the money. The CEB post is certainly worth checking out.

Sadly, most of my worst customer experiences a come from my a preferred airline.  It’s sad because I fly.  A lot.  You might think that being an elite flyer for the past 15 years might count for something, but then again airlines are not exactly known for the wisdom of their customer service.

Earlier this week, I checked in at the airport.  I had a middle seat on a flight to Los Angeles. Four hours of hell, so I asked to purchase a bulkhead seat.  The attendant before security said only the gate personnel could help.  When I arrived at the frequent flyers club, they said the bulkhead seats were available, only they could help only 50 minutes before the flight.  They explained that prior to that time, the seats were for sale.  No problem, I’ll buy one now.  Except they can’t sell them. They have to be bought from the machine that dispenses boarding passes.  But that machine refused to give me the option to purchase the seat.

Clint Eastwood’s word for this is “clusterf–k.”   He is so eloquent and so right (Most of the time.)

So I tweeted the airline.  The Rhodes Scholar that replied said the seats were held for chose needing assistance.  That would be great if I wasn’t being told the seats were for sale.  He tweeter then told me I had to be at the airport.  Duh, try again.  Then I was told “the airport can help you.” Really yay?  The whole airport?  The pathetic, ineffectual effort to help only served to anger me more (this is the genteel translation).

There is a moral to this story.  Help needs to be simple.  And it needs to be effective.  Not to mention understanding.  Airlines are really bad at this, but there is no reason they have to be.  Great customer service may require a DNA transplant, but good customer service is simply about using your brain and making the effort.


Scott Curran, the Deputy General Counsel of The Clinton Foundation (yes, that Clinton Foundation), was this year’s first guest speaker at Valorem’s “Lunch With a Cool Person.”  The mug  presented to Scott confirms he is, in fact, a “Cool Person.”  Scott was incredibly gracious with his time and his insights and ideas, and my Valorem colleagues and I are ever so grateful.

One great takeaway that Scott left was how the Clinton Foundation makes the most of its meetings and events.  The Foundation is action-driven, so every event ends with commitments by each person attending to do something.  What happens if they don’t do what was promised?  They can’t come back.  Apparently the former President has called some close friends and told them they would not be able to attend a major event (perhaps the Clinton Global Initiative?) because the person has not followed through as promised.  The result?  People follow through.

I can’t tell you the number of conferences I’ve attended where promises were made and, for the most part, not kept.  I think the Foundation’s approach is inspired, and I thank Scott for such a great take-away.