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.