Ushering in a New Year: Wishing For Innovation and Expecting Change Under the Hood

Spend Matters welcomes some holiday thoughts and New Year's wishes from Danny Ertel, a founding partner of Vantage Partners and a consultant in legal process outsourcing, relationship management strategies, and negotiation techniques.

'Tis the holiday season, at least in the West, with Christmas (and Boxing Day) ever so recently behind us, and Hannukah and Kwanzaa still very much in evidence. What better time to make a wish, for both the practice and business of law. I'll tee up some aspirations here, and follow next week with my views for what we can realistically expect from 2012. Given that these are both short weeks for many, and that my crystal ball is looking rather murky, I'll keep these posts short and sweet.

First, my wish for in-house counsel: innovation in the delivery and pricing of legal services. All of you who have answered the various surveys in circulation or have attended and spoken up at any of the conferences I participated in the past year have made it clear that your internal clients' patience has worn thin: they want legal expenses to be "under control" -- not necessarily "down" if the business is expanding into new markets, making new acquisitions, or fighting off new lawsuits. But they want realistic budgets, more predictable progress along project plans, and fewer surprises. They want to make sure that the law department is applying good management skills and tools. They want to see legal services (and their costs) managed as well as are other critical inputs to their business plans and operations.

For many companies, that would be a real sea change, and it won't happen by itself. If you want technology applied in different ways, resources assigned differently, matters managed differently, or services priced differently, you will have to play the role of instigator, catalyst, and even disruptor. If you want innovation, you are going to have very explicitly articulate what that means to you, and you are going to have to take steps to enable outside counsel to change how they work with you. The good news is that if you resolve to come up with better ways to manage your counsel relationships, the fees you pay, and how services are delivered, you really can achieve those things and find counsel who will partner with you to make it happen.

Read the rest of this article over on Danny's blog.

Part 2 of this article, Ushering in a new year – Part II: Expect change under the hood, is now available as well.

- Danny Ertel, Founding Partner, Vantage Partners

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