The art and science of law.
Summary: If it's late spring, it must be time to get together. The Northeast's winter of the Snowpocalyse is finally over, so we can travel without ...
If it's late spring, it must be time to get together. The Northeast's winter of the Snowpocalyse is finally over, so we can travel without wondering whether we'll get snowed in at O'Hare for a few days.
And so InsideCounsel threw a big bash, our annual SuperConference. Senior editor Rich Steeves took excellent notes and boiled down everything that happened over three days worth of sessions. These sessions were full of useful tips for how to run your departments--now and in the future.
Some of that wisdom:
Innovation lags: Hey, we have a section of this magazine dedicated to this, but the in-house bar is in a holding pattern. At least that's what David Cambria, global director of operations-law at Archer Daniels Midland, said. Cambria isn't shy about laying it out bluntly and says that any tech innovation has been limited to time and matter management. And he doesn't think any further advances will come from current legal departments. "I think the next innovations are going to come from operations, not the legal department. Innovation is going to come from the younger lawyers, and from people who are looking to be operationally aware. But I think as a collective group, we are doing an abysmal job at innovating," he says.
More data! Steve Ihm, an assistant general counsel at Allstate, says that data gathering--and being able to understand what you're gathering--will be increasingly crucial. There's a political angle to it, too. Boards don't just want to hear nice stories from general counsel. They want hard, actionable data to rely upon and with which to make decisions. Practically speaking, more transparent data can only help your operations; look at what e-billing, and the data that has come from it, has done to outside counsel transparency.
Disruption isn't always a bad thing: Sure, we like predictability. But crises can bring out our better side. The post-Lehman meltdown was painful, but it made companies more efficient, and it forced a lot of bigger departments to act more like business units. It definitely changed the dynamic of client-law firm relationships, and that was a much-delayed and much-needed shift in the legal industry.
I'll argue, however, that law is different. As Reese Arrowsmith, head of legal operations at Lincoln Financial Group, said in a discussion, "Lawyers still think of law as an art, not a science." He implied that that was a bad thing. But like everything at work (and maybe in life), it's both. The challenge for legal departments, their clients and their outside counsel is to find the right mix of art and science.
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