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LegalJune 19, 2024

CGI session report: Controlling costs and delivering value in the modern legal department

The 2024 CLOC Global Institute drew legal operations professionals, experts, and vendors from many industries with the goal of improving legal department performance. One of the standout moments from this year’s gathering was a Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions session that included an insightful presentation by one of Dell’s key legal operations leaders.

After ELM Solutions provided an introduction to how legal departments can become future-ready, Michelle Nenadic, Senior Advisor, Legal Operations at Dell, shared invaluable information about how Dell took steps to evolve. The legal ops team revamped their outside counsel billing guidelines, introduced comprehensive reporting on legal spend, and streamlined their RFP process. These innovations optimized Dell’s legal operations and set a new benchmark for efficiency and transparency at the company.

Here are the top five takeaways from this valuable session.

Technology can improve legal department value

According to the Wolters Kluwer Future-Ready Survey report, legal organizations that fully leverage technology outperform and are more profitable than those that do not. Approximately 89% of lawyers want to work in a tech-savvy legal department. This is understandable; the integration of technology allows legal departments to focus on higher-value work by reducing the burden of manual tasks. This shift enables legal teams to act as value-add partners to the business, enhancing cycle times, responsiveness, and communication. Ultimately, a tech-enabled legal team not only boosts internal efficiency but also contributes to the overall strategic goals of the organization.

Keep billing guidelines current

Billing guidelines are a foundational layer of vendor and spend management. As such, they should not be thought of as a “set it and forget it” endeavor. As a company’s outside counsel management program matures, or its business goals change focus over time, its billing guidelines should also evolve to ensure continued alignment with developing priorities. Dell recently updated their billing guidelines, which has provided the basis that its ELM tools needed to deliver optimal results.

Establish a law firm panel and lock in rates

Creating a panel of preferred outside counsel law firms offers several key benefits to corporate legal departments, including discounted rates, a deeper understanding of the company’s needs and expectations, streamlined firm management, and stronger collaborative relationships. Leveraging an RFP process, preferred rate firms, and locking in rates for a period of two years, Dell limits the overhead and price increases associated with annual renegotiations. Additionally, this type of structure supports Dell’s governance processes, including their preference to work with diverse vendors.

Use reports to optimize legal spend

When reporting is detailed and targeted for real-time, data-driven decision-making, it enables improvements at crucial points, such as outside counsel assignment, timekeeper rate evaluation, and budgeting. Dell evolved its use of reporting by creating reports that delivered the precise information their team members required for better managing outside counsel spend, including reports on spend forecasts, accruals, and budget erosion by percentage. The information presented in these reports enables close scrutiny of law firm billing practices and increased cost control.

Plan for the future

The legal department tech stack is a critical factor in its performance and, as such, must be regularly evaluated and then updated when necessary. Well-chosen tools can serve a legal team successfully for years, but there are constant technological advancements and business environment changes over time. It is therefore critical to remain current on available technologies and best practices and to develop plans for continuous improvement.

In Dell’s case, the team is considering how they will use AI and predictive analysis to continue improving efficiency and outcomes. They are also looking at ways of honing panel management and vendor selection with additional metrics and updates to their bidding process. For example, they are evaluating LegalCollaborator, a firm engagement and competitive bidding solution, to determine whether it could improve and streamline their current manual bidding process.

To learn more about partnering with ELM to optimize processes and better control spend, visit our total spend management site.

Enterprise legal management
Market-leading provider of enterprise legal spend and matter management, AI-powered legal bill review, and legal analytics solutions
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