BLOGS: Custom Client Service Solutions

Thursday, October 1, 2009, 12:21 PM

Thoughts on FMC Technologies' Litigation Law Value Challenge

After an innovative "non-competition" to support the legal needs of FMC Technologies, Womble Carlyle was one of 6 firms empaneled as part of the company's Litigation Law Value Challenge.

The highly public "non-competiton" was initiated through the vision of FMCTI's Chief Legal Officer Jeff Carr and his team as part of the company's leadership in the Association of Corporate Counsel's Value Challenge, a now-familiar effort for inside and outside counsel to drive new, value-focused business modeling. The words, below, comprise comments that I originally posted on Legal OnRamp -- a forum for more than 10,000 individual thought-leaders in the legal services arena:

"Thanks to the team at FMC Technologies for materially advancing the Value discussion over the course of the spring, summer, fall and into the future. Naturally, Womble Carlyle is gratified to be in the position it is so that the work can continue. Aside from the Litigation Law Value Challenge at FMC Technologies, some thoughts about the pathway ahead:

A colleague of mine at Womble Carlyle is working with a panel of in-house counsel for a Value Challenge session at the upcoming ACC Annual Meeting in Boston. Until 6 months ago himself a Chief Legal Officer at a publicly traded company, he is struck by the intensity (one might say, ferocity) of efforts on the part of in-house counsel to drive improvements -- a.k.a. (r)evolution -- on the part of law firms.

I'm one voice, but I think that the stars are aligned for this to happen. I've said it before, and I repeat it now: Buyers of legal services always have been in charge. Now, they know it and are claiming their birthright.

Also coming clearly into focus -- new-model law firms. As one who works in a fairly large law firm (550 or so lawyers), I have observed that mid-sized firms typically have focused their competitive instincts primarily if not exclusively on the highly successful and profitable large law firms (i.e. New York firms, International firms, etc.) The market now presents a wake up call in the form of nimble, new-age providers whose voices are increasingly prominent. Some of us know that, to the extent we once did so, we no longer can view the competitive landscape only through the windshield. Increasingly, we need to be watching out the back window, not to mention the side ones and the moon roof. These new-model organizations, in conjunction with in-house leaders, also are responsible for accelerating the pace of change/improvement.

Long ago in my career, at Price Waterhouse before the combination with Coopers & Lybrand, the firm would agonize when it failed to win a competition to become statutory auditor. "How could they not select THE blue-chip audit?" the partners would agonize. The answer, sometimes at least, was simple: The potential customer did not want (nor want to pay for) a blue-chip audit when another approach would suffice and be more economically feasible. Customers knew what the auditors did not: the blue-chip level of effort was not always commensurate with the need. In other words, the provider just didn't "get" the need in all of its detail and relief. One size did not fit all. Clearly there were times when only blue-chip would suffice. But not always, and maybe not even most of the time.

One other point: FMC Technologies' operation of the Litigation Law Value Challenge on Legal OnRamp and Twitter has driven us to a new level. As one whose favorite album -- Rubber Soul -- was on a vinyl LP, having another LBR (legitimate business reason) to get in touch with my digital self makes the transition a bit less painful."

- Steve
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