I had the pleasure of hearing Paul Beach, Associate General Counsel for Litigation for United Technologies Corporation (UTC) give a wonderful and informative presentation on AFAs. Bottom-line: Paul and UTC have it right when it comes to AFAs. In concert with AFAs, Paul talked a lot about value. In addition to what provides value, Paul gave a list of things firms do that they think provide value to clients, but really don’t - at least for him. Here is my abbreviated and paraphrased list:
#1 – Firms send him long “experience” lists, showing what cases they have handled and how they won them. He estimate somewhere between 50 to 95% of these cases are not worth mentioning. He views them as too much information, and information he doesn’t necessarily trust and really doesn’t value. As he said it, lawyers typically talk about every case as a win, since a resolution is a win. I read that as - don’t send him long experience lists or don’t even send him a list at all unless it’s relevant/valuable to the situation.
#2 – Don’t send him hard-copy, leather-bound books authored by firm lawyers. He described these as “too heavy, with no search function.” He mentioned one he received that already had a pocket-part inserted. He read that as “out-of-date.” Books are knowledge that is not shareable, current or mobile. Even with the leather – he was not impressed.
#3 – Billing him for providing training for his internal staff. Enough said.
#4 – Entertainment or gifts. Most legal departments are charged with enforcing Procurement’s rules, which state, “no gifts from vendors.” So why are you offering gifts to the Legal Dept.?
#5 - Writing off time. This one was his “favorite.” When a lawyer calls him and tells him that a lot of time was written-off, he assumes they are trying to impress him by voluntarily reducing waste from his bill. Instead, what he hears is that they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s an indicator of bad process and bad management.
So … in addition to truly getting AFAs, Paul also knows how to ‘cut to the chase’ on what value means.