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Casey Flaherty is the Director of Legal Project Management at Baker McKenzie. He is a former Biglaw associate and corporate counsel who moved into legal operations consulting for law departments and law firms before taking on his current challenge. Casey has an affinity for  systems thinking, strategic sourcing, process re-engineering, KPIs, and the practical application of technology to the legal dimensions of business problems. His long-term focus is the mesh point between law departments and law firms where he promotes structured dialogue to foster deep supplier relationships (read about that here and here).

At the recent, excellent Law 2030, Vijay Govindarajan observed, “There is only so much Six Sigma you can do.” Despite my affinities, I concur. Low baselines can have an outsized impact on the efficacy of interventions—but then baselines stop being low.

Consider buying a car with an eye towards better gas mileage.

Which technological leap saves more gas? Improving a car’s miles per gallon (i) from 10 mpg to 20 mpg or (ii) from 20 mpg to 100 mpg?

Put another way, from the perspective of gallons saved, what is the ‘bigger improvement’ (i) +10 mpg/2x or (ii) +80 mpg/5x?

Since I’m asking the question, you already surmised the answer is counter intuitive:

One simple takeaway is that once you cut something in half, there is nothing you can do, save eliminating it entirely, that will ever again deliver the same raw level of improvement.

In the legal context, for example, we have good reason to accelerate contract review. Start with a standard review that averages 20 minutes and reduce it by 60% through basic interventions (harmonized templates, checklists, playbooks, deviation matrices, etc.). You save 12 minutes per contract. Next, throw on some razzle dazzle AI that reduces average review time by another 60%. You save less than 5 additional minutes. That’s not nothing, especially with large volumes. But it comes at a cost, including the opportunity cost of addressing other chokepoints, constraints, and rate-limiting factors.
Continue Reading The Limits of Incremental Improvements

January was a busy month on my LinkedIn. Birthday and a work anniversary. The automatic notifications prompted some splendid exchanges with old friends. And I received a few questions worth answering more publicly.

Where you been?

Working. Took the new job at the beginning of 2019. It was exciting at the time. Even more exciting

The United States military is the most formidable fighting force in the history of warfare, and the rightful birthplace of SNAFU, FUBAR, BOHICA, etc. Jordan’s Bulls were teams for the ages, and a hostile work environmentBreaking Bad is a crowning artistic achievement, and a show whose writers regularly painted themselves into ridiculous narrative cornersEvery institution, no matter how venerable, looks like a goat rodeo from the inside.

As we pass the year’s mid-point, I’ve had the good fortune to conduct more site visits at law firms and law departments. And, as always, I’ve attended an obscene number of conferences [at one right now]. I’ve seen quite a bit and heard even more. Overall, I’m optimistic. An admittedly skewed sample of major industry players are moving in directions I applaud (confirmation bias is only a few degrees away from social proof). But the inescapable conclusion from gaining visibility into so many organizations is that everyone—and I mean everyone, me included—has plenty of room for improvement. Those who refuse to concede their imperfections, even in private, are doing the industry a disservice.
Continue Reading The Legal Department Goat Rodeo

Nothing You Can Say Can Cause Me To Retain You remains among the most important blog posts for understanding the corporate legal market. Mark Hermann, self-styled curmudgeon and then Chief Counsel – Litigation and Global Chief Compliance Officer at Aon, expertly expounds on why he is loath to add new law firms: he already has really good lawyers.

Hermann calculates a 95% probability that new lawyers would be worse than his curated incumbents. I’ll pile on. Even if we are comfortable that new lawyers would be as good as, and possibly better than, our existing lawyers, there is still a strong argument for sticking with known quantities. It is not merely that we know our incumbents. They know us. The ramp-up costs for onboarding new counsel are more than administrative (framework agreements, fee negotiations, data security audits, e-billing setup), they are substantive. Current counsel know our people, personalities, peccadilloes, preferences, procedures, and policies. New, even when it is better, comes at a cost.


Continue Reading Nothing You Can Say On Diversity

A Watched Pot

I invented a new tech product for the corporate legal market. I have no qualms labeling it “the ultimate disruptive game changer.” I hope you are sitting down for this.The Magic Money Machine™ is a proprietary IoT cryptocurrency platform that leverages blockchain technology and deep-learning algorithms to reduce friction in the legal supply chain. Inside and outside counsel need only to both plug in the MMM (sadly, my branding team tells me that M&M, 3M, and M3 all seem to be taken). That’s it. No learning curve. No changed behavior. No implementation dip. No risk. Also I am giving it away free. I charge only for shipping and handling (order now and get a second one at no additional charge).

If both sides have the MMM plugged in, the corporate client’s costs will be reduced by 25%, and the law firm’s profits will increase by 25%. A win-win from mutually beneficial collaboration, a truly beautiful thing.

So here’s the question: how long will it take MMM to reach market saturation?


Continue Reading My legal tech invention: the Magic Money Machine

First, an unqualified endorsement:

Ken Adams’s A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, Fourth Edition is essential for every professional involved in the contracting process from negotiation and drafting to interpretation and litigation. MSCD has no peer in explaining what contracts do and how they should be constructed. The breadth, depth, and clarity are astounding. As is the usability. This is a well-organized reference containing pinpoint guidance on clause types, word usage, and formatting.

If we truly believe that we should do the best we can until we know better, then do better, we have a professional obligation to grapple with, and then make use of, the expert guidance MSCD provides. When light is offered, complacency is no excuse to continue in the dark. MSCD shines a bright light on how to best solve for complexities of contracting in pursuit of business objectives.

Anyone interested in contracts should also read Ken’s blog.

Had to get that out of the way because it is deserved and standard book reviews are not my MO.

“An unqualified endorsement” in both the sense that it is without reservation and that the person making it (me) lacks the appropriate qualifications. Reading Ken triggers my almost debilitating impostor syndrome. I’ve battled the affliction since I commenced my legal career with the observation: Clients are paying how much per hour for me? To do this? Really? Something is very wrong here.


Continue Reading How much of lawyering is being a copy-and-paste monkey?

My friend John Grant made a mistake.

Many moons ago he was consulting on process improvement for a large law department. He surveyed in-house counsel on their biggest complaints about outside counsel. The response was that outside counsel:

  • Don’t understand my business
  • Can’t tell me how long anything will take
  • Overwork a problem/introduce complexity
  • Don’t