Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 2:53 PM

Value: Some Folks Just Get it!

Too often, those who drop in and out of the inside counsel-outside counsel discussion reduce it to a sound bite that centers on criticism of law firm fees. No doubt law firms are culpable, but the topic is a whole lot broader than that, and kudos to Susan Hackett, General Counsel at the Association of Corporate Counsel for continuing to focus on overall value, and not just prices. To her credit, she totally "gets it" that value is a two-way street. As an innovator at a law firm that is aggressively implementing alternative service and pricing models, I particularly appreciate her comment in the law.com article: "Lots of clients' lips are moving, but their feet aren't moving....People assume that we're pointing our fingers just at the firms. But we have the guns aimed at ourselves, too."

As I reflect on the current volume of high-level discourse on new business models, I can't help but reflect that for me all of this arose almost five years ago when I first met Judi Trail, who oversees the acquisition of audit, tax and legal services for JPMorgan Chase. When I first met Judi, I was amazed at the bank's sophistication in the realm of legal sourcing, which any student of the subject should get to know. When one considers the avalanche of legal services that will be purchased by the financial sector as a result of the financial crisis, one wonders how soon the legal-purchasing advances at JPMC and other large banks will become standard fare.

Which leads me to yet another observation. We don't always take note of the fact that another significant constituency -- the sourcing world -- is carrying on a related, but not yet connected, discussion of the legal services model. I refer you to a September article in the publication, Inside Supply Management, which is the house organ of the Institute of Supply Management. This organization is where the REAL purchasing experts congregate. The article to which I refer was authored by Jason Winmill, a partner with Argopoint Consulting LLC in Boston. As the author bio notes, his firm specializes in bringing a structured sourcing approach to corporate legal departments. Heads up to those involved in the legal services purchasing discussion. ISM is "onto us." Here are the introductory words from Winmill's article.

"Corporate legal spend offers one of the most challenging, but also rewarding, categories for corporate supply management departments. But sophisticated supply management professionals are making inroads into legal departments....."

Read and heed!

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