Bad-Mouthing Batman: the Promise of Prevention

Batman should spend more time and money securing Gotham’s prisons. As my soon-to-be five year old gets increasingly enthralled by super heroes (and Legos and Star Wars), I find myself watching many animated series where the chain of events commonly commences with a super villain's prison break. Gotham’s lax security protocols are the source of considerable mischief. It would seem to me that some portion of the billions Batman spends on crime-fighting contraptions and the trillions the city spends rebuilding after every villainous rampage would be better directed towards keeping evil geniuses behind bars. But that, of course, would make for uninteresting TV and would mean far less of Batman being Batman.
This tangent was inspired by the announcement that one of my legal super heroes, Jeff Carr, is heading to ValoremNext. In the legal nerd version of the Justice League or The Avengers, he will be joining forces with fellow superhuman crusader, Pat Lamb. As described in their press release, ValoremNext is “a platform designed to diminish the need for legal services by preventing problems before they occur.” Jeff is quoted, “as businesses expand their geographic base, the demands on law departments to do more with less becomes acute, and the savings available from doing the same things better are not sustainable. The only sustainable savings can come from a program that prevents the demand for legal services in the first place.”

Two more analogies.

Firefighting is a heroic activity. But fire codes and fire prevention engineers have done far more to preserve life and property. In most urban environments, firefighters now spend very little of their time actually fighting fires. Likewise, few people recognize that plumbing is more important to public health than doctors. Neither of these facts, while true, has eliminated the need for firefighters or doctors, nor do they diminish the nobility of those vocations. But systemic prevention initiatives are critical for allocating finite response resources to their highest and best use.

A profile I wrote several months back on VMware is a superb example of combining process and technology to #DoLessLaw. VMware’s legal operations team lead by Aine Lyons worked in conjunction with legal department stakeholders and their LPO provider to redesign the contracting workflow. Post redesign, the number of deals escalated to the legal department declined by 74 percent. The annual savings was in the millions. Quality also improved. And, importantly, finite lawyer time was directed towards higher-value activities.

It is worth focusing on the fact that VMware initiative relied on the legal ops team. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and will detail more in the future, I see the rise of nontraditional stakeholders as key to increasing our sophistication as the suppliers and consumers of legal services. It’s not that traditional lawyers are intellectually incapable of leading these projects. They are, however, very busy lawyering. Lyons herself is a trained lawyer who now primarily focuses her efforts on systemic issues rather than individual matters.

Capacity constraints should be understood and respected. Empowering specialists to focus on areas within their domain expertise is an excellent first step towards success. But that presupposes such specialists exist. I was therefore excited to learn that Jeff Carr is taking his expertise in preventative law beyond the confines of a single in-house department. The legal market will be a richer, more interesting (and hilarious) place.

Casey Flaherty is the founder of Procertas. He is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker focused on achieving the right legal outcomes with the right people doing the right work the right way at the right price. Casey created the Service Delivery Review (f.k.a., the Legal Tech Audit), a strategic-sourcing tool that drives deeper supplier relationships by facilitating structured dialogue between law firms and clients. There is more than enough slack in the legal market for clients to get higher quality work at lower cost while law firms increase profits via improved realizations.
The premise of the Service Delivery Review is that with people and pricing in place, rigorous collaboration on process offers the real levers to drive continuous improvement. Proper collaboration means involving nontraditional stakeholders. A prime example is addressing the need for more training on existing technology. One obstacle is that traditional technology training methods are terribleCompetence-based assessments paired with synchronous, active learning offer a better path forward. Following these principles, Casey created the Legal Technology Assessment platform to reduce total training time, enhance training effectiveness, and deliver benchmarked results.
Connect with Casey on LinkedIn or follow him Twitter (@DCaseyF).  

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