‘Legal ops are often our best ally,’ says Graham Richardson, a partner at Eversheds Sutherland and Head of Konexo, the efficiency focused group that provides clients with managed services and joined-up tech solutions, among other things.
And, before we go deeper into legal ops and efficiency, let’s just have a quick look at Konexo’s full offering, which includes:
- legal managed services
- legal operations services
- legal resourcing
- financial services (advisory, interim resourcing and remediation)
- corporate secretarial services
- and HR services
- along with a consulting capability to make all the above fit the clients’ needs.
It also works closely with a range of tech companies from Autologyx to ThoughtRiver through its Konexo Hub to provide clients with tech-based solutions to their challenges. (See AL article on the Hub).
All in all it’s the kind of modern services offering that is helping to reshape what people expect when they think of ‘a law firm’, or perhaps to be more inclusive we should just use the term ‘Legal Services Business’ or LSB.
Now, let’s get into the detail.
Richardson is a straight-talker and starts with: ‘We are a hedge for a law firm that sees that the world will be different. There is still a place for a £600 hour partner, but clients are saying that does not apply to 80% of their work.’
Not that Eversheds is new to thinking through the tough questions of cost and efficiency. It was one of the first firms to pioneer ‘all in one’ deals with inhouse legal teams, like that with Tyco, where the business handled nearly all of the client’s legal needs with the goal of hitting an annual fixed price.
That needed a lot of thinking about the price that the firm could make its work for. This was something that was especially challenging for a firm with offices around the world.
‘Tyco revolutionised our EU network. We had to tell offices to cost the work they did. But that gave us the chance to have discipline,’ he says and adds that they experienced situations where the London office was writing off work that was unbillable that was generated by other offices.
So, they have learnt through experience all about the intersection of efficiency and legal work. Those lessons have eventually led to the creation of Konexo, a unit that is through-and-through built with efficiency and cost savings in mind.
Do GCs Want This?
One of the great paradoxes of the commercial legal sector, especially at the Big Law level, is that not all the GCs of large inhouse legal teams are that excited about cutting their spending. Nor does efficiency always excite them.
‘Many clients are still thinking in terms of hourly rates, even when the job is staffed wrongly,’ he notes. ‘The open-ended model is perpetuated by the buyers.’
Now that’s not something you often hear from a Big Law firm.
‘The buying and selling community are from same roots,’ he adds. I.e. many lawyers working in large corporate inhouse teams were trained in global law firms and have grown up on the hourly model, as well as not project managing with a focus on cost reduction.
Not that Richardson is criticising the inhouse world, as he says: ‘When we have done interesting things it is driven by the GCs.’ He mentions DuPont and again Tyco, and in particular its former GC, Trevor Faure. And of course, he’s a big fan of legal ops professionals.
He is not expecting major change in the short term. ‘A lot of GCs are not looking for revolutionary managed legal services. They just want the same at 20% cheaper,’ Richardson observes.
So, although it’s very welcome to see some GCs pushing on cost, even here it’s often what Artificial Lawyer calls the ‘blunt force’ approach to legal services efficiency, i.e. the 20% fee cut that Richardson mentions, rather than stopping to rethink the entire procurement process.
‘We are seeing more progress when non-lawyers are in the loop,’ he observes. ‘Legal ops look at life differently. They are often our best ally.‘
But, why is that? If legal ops professionals can get energised about procurement, cost cutting, efficiency building, re-thinking work processes, why isn’t every GC just as enthused?
‘A lot of GCs just want to be advisers to the business, a voice in the boardroom,’ Richardson notes.
Which on one level is fair enough. The idea of working hand-in-hand with the C-suite to save the business in times of crisis is indeed a very invigorating prospect for any lawyer.
If you then tap the GC on the shoulder and say: ‘Er…excuse me, could you have a look at this spreadsheet that shows how we are wasting money on Business As Usual matters?’ then the response could well be: ‘That’s really not a top priority right now!’
That said, the bigger the legal spend the more likely the organisation is to make these matters a top priority as well. And that will likely only increase as the downturn moves from panic mode to companies simply looking to reduce the poor allocation of capital within their business, i.e. only spend a lot where it really makes sense to.
As Richardson notes: ‘For Konexo, 60% of revenue is from financial services. You have big teams [there] and they are receptive to change.’
As noted, tech is part of the mix. Richardson explains how they have worked with many tech companies.
‘We’ve used doc automation, AI contract review, and so on, but we have seen clients struggle with tech solutions. What we try to do at Konexo is knit things together rather that focus on point solutions,’ he says.
Richardson lights up with regard to the benefits of automation in the legal sector, especially RPA and the automation capabilities provided by companies such as Autologyx.
He gives the example of doing a major contract review project for a large bank that demanded a MIFID II regulatory remediation involving sending out a mass of documents triggered by the review to multiple parties. Here automation really helped.
The system took time to get right, but once it was working well, ‘it could run 24/7’ Richardson says. And, he adds: ‘It was 100% accurate.’
‘RPA is a big opportunity for routine admin tasks,’ he says and gives another example involving the authorisation process around mobile phone towers. They put together a playbook, designed a process, built in the doc review and RPA software, and created a system that could check documents as they came in, approve them and then provide a ‘stamp’ for a PDF document that was then sent back.
‘We did 23,000 of these,’ he notes.
Now consider having done this 100% manually. It would have taken years and the client no doubt would have walked away because of spiralling costs. Tech clearly helped, and this solution also fitted perfectly with Konexo’s overall ethos.
Richardson adds that when it comes to volume and/or high frequency matters, NLP and automation tools really come into their own. ‘Without this tech it’s impossible. Sales people want the docs back as fast as possible,’ he says.
What Konexo is doing, and other businesses, such as Elevate (see yesterday’s story) and the Big Four, and a range of ALSPs, plus a growing number of other law firms, is essentially the same thing. They are saying to the market: if you want efficiency, we have it. And not just blunt force cost-cutting, we have an entire joined up services model for you, if you want to make use of it.
And perhaps the battle now is around which of these providers, or LSBs, genuinely has such a joined-up offering, and which are the most effective for the clients.
So, for Artificial Lawyer what Konexo and Richardson are doing is right on track, and exactly what the legal market needs right now, especially at a time where many clients really will need to look at their legal costs.
Legal Innovators Online Conference
If you found this interesting, then come along to Legal Innovators Online, where Graham Richardson will be one of the many great speakers.
The event is on each afternoon (UK time) of May 19, 20 and 21. Tickets can be found here.