By Cash Butler and Jeff Kruse.
The terms “trailblazer, pioneer, and innovator” are overused buzzwords. But the terms truly apply to Vince Cordo Jr. Before becoming a true innovator in the delivery of legal services, Vince was a member of internationally touring rock bands. He knows what it takes to be a star and to be successful.
A Natural Transition to Legal Services
Vince did not start his career in the legal field. Rather, with his MBA from the University of Liverpool, a background in economics, and a Masters Degree in Technology Management from Columbia Business School, Vince is not an ordinary legal services provider.
Early in his career, Vince was a data scientist working heavily on data mining. During that period, he worked at two startup companies that provided key services in the legal space. One company focused on time management software, and the other on records management.
Both opportunities allowed Vince to work very closely with in-house legal teams supporting core innovation in the early days of what is now legal operations. In those roles, Vince played “a hybrid role” as a technologist who interfaced with clients. In that hybrid role, Vince worked hand in hand with the lawyers, human resources professionals, and information technology specialists employed by his clients.
By necessity and innate skill, Vince developed the vital ability to communicate highly technical information about software solutions to his customers, the in-house legal teams. In essence, he became a “universal translator” so that legal and business teams could understand technology, and he could help with the installation of the technology and provide key client support.
Early Role with Law Firms
Because of his unique ability to translate and implement technology, one of the law firms with which he had worked offered Vince his first stint working directly in legal services. The firm knew it had a “service delivery need” and Vince filled that need as the Chief Information Officer. At first, Vince’s role at the firm focused primarily on technology, but the role transitioned into client support, pricing support, and innovation. The role evolved in part because of Vince’s capability to understand the needs of the law firm’s clients and to develop solutions to fill those needs.
For example, Vince recalls that one client had a need to better understand knowledge management. Through his exceptional ability to read the room, Vince recognized that the client needed a better grasp of operations within the legal department, and he and his team were able to help the client meet its needs.
Over the course of his first two decades in the legal services arena, Vince worked at several multinational law firms. During those years, Vince had the good fortune to collaborate with numerous like-minded individuals and their teams from various corporations like Jeff Carr at Univar, Leanne Geale , EVP and General Counsel Nestlé S.A, Maurus Schreyvogel at Novartis, Connie Brenton at NetApp, Justin Ergler at GlaxoSmithKline, Ritva Sotamaa, General Counsel at Unilever, Sam Bernstein at Amazon, Greg Kaple at Kaiser Permanente, Jason Barnwell at Microsoft, and Lisa Hart Shephard CEO Acritas just to name a few of the people who influenced Vince’s journey for creating a vision for the role of strategic legal operations in delivering value in legal services.
After several years working at those three major law firms, Vince found an opportunity to grow his legal operations skills in-house at Shell New Energies. While at Shell, he served as the Global Sourcing Officer, Central Legal Operations Officer, and ultimately as the Head of Global Integration and Compliance. In these roles, Vince managed a team of over 30 operations professionals responsible for pricing strategy and negotiations, legal project management, legal budgeting, business intelligence, compliance, metrics, and much more.
During his time at Shell, Vince’s team won an Association of Corporate Counsel Value Champion Award for a implementing a large-scale counsel convergence program. That project resulted in significant annual outside counsel rate reductions and an impressive overall external spend cut of 25 percent.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are important concepts to Vince. While at Shell, Vince helped drive the charge under Legal Director Donny Ching to establish diversity and inclusion metrics for the General Counsel (GC) for Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiative, and he regularly spoke on the topic in various events throughout Europe.
Return to a Law Firm
Earlier this year, Vince left Shell and joined Holland & Knight LLP as the Chief Client Development and Relationship Officer. Vince is uniquely qualified for this role. He has been a vendor in the legal services space. He has been an operations leader for multiple law firms. And most recently, he has been an in-house legal operations innovator. In short, he has seen legal services delivery from all sides and is now using that vast perspective to deliver value for Holland & Knight clients.
From Vince’s viewpoint, “more than ever, global companies are looking at ways to expand in the states and all over the planet. These companies need help to adopt technology and processes and especially need help making these changes part of the fabric of their organizations.”
In his new role, he is helping “allied professionals support the harmony of the dance of the delivery of value.” For instance, instead of just helping a client implement a new technology solution, he is also focused on helping the client capture important data from that solution that might help the client’s bottom line.
Another aspect of his new role involves cross-pollination in the delivery of services for clients. Rather than the siloed delivery of legal services, Vince is identifying opportunities for clients to use additional technology or harmonizing supplementary offerings to add value in the delivery of their legal services. Another aspect of the value harmony includes bringing in younger talent on matters for knowledge continuity and talent development.
To Vince, value is about “impact and results.” Delivering value means providing positive impacts on the bottom line of the business. Vince believes that value results from “the delivery of services executed in a way that is the most efficient and effective manner for the better outcome of the client.” Essential to the delivery of value is the need for alignment. Service providers need to be aligned with the interests of their clients.
For Vince, value has three pillars. The first component of “value is understanding the right balance of savings and economic enhancement for both sides.”
The second aspect of “value” is an understanding of client relationships and team loyalty. Team nurturing and loyalty is necessary to prevent “team erosion and make sure the team continues to deliver excellent service at the same high level.” The third facet of value is an awareness of branding and marketing to highlight how everyone in the organization contributes to value delivery.
Importance of Data
Understanding data is important for understanding value in the delivery of legal services. Data is such a vital aspect in the value equation that Vince and Jaap Bosman wrote the book, “Data & Dialogue: a relationship redefined.” In that book, they explain the need for both the clients and the service providers to communicate clearly about data analytics to drive efficiency and value. In the book, they discuss the “Value Matrix” which can provide a workable model to establish value price points.
Vince believes it is important to be “bold and brave in showcasing how you impact the business.” For instance, early in his experience in legal services, Vince recognized the importance of using key performance indicators to demonstrate value and impact on the bottom line. Vince appreciated that his clients identified key performance indicators (KPIs) in their financial statements. So, he transferred those KPI concepts from his clients’ financial statements into his legal services space. Specifically, he mapped his clients’ KPIs so he “could show how he and the legal team were positively influencing those KPIs.”
A key to showcase value is to move the discussion away from hourly rates and cost. As he notes, “People will pay for efficiency and would pay $10,000 an hour for a project if it could be done in an hour instead of a hundred hours.” Thus, the discussion about value should focus on how the legal services positively impact the client’s business and how the services are delivered in the most efficient manner for the client.
Key to Success in Legal Operations
To be successful in legal operations, Vince believes that you have to make the emphasis on delivering value “organic to the culture of the organization.” In his experience, one of the biggest challenges is making the emphasis on value “more than just a fad.” The focus on value has to be “embraced throughout the organization so that it becomes part of the culture and the fabric that organization.” He credits the in-house Shell team for adopting that mentality and making the three pillars of value a part of the culture throughout the team.
Broad Perspective on Requests for Proposal
Vince has been on all sides of requests for proposals (RFPs). At the startups, he was on the vendor side responding to requests. When he was in-house, his teams prepared RFPs, and he evaluated vendor and law firm responses. When he has been at law firms, he has helped respond to RFPs. In short, Vince knows the RFP process.
To respond to RFPs successfully, Vince emphasizes the need for good writing. According to Vince, “you need to tell a well-written complete story from the first question to the one hundredth question and to weave key concepts like innovation throughout the responses.” The entire response needs to be cohesive and the responding firm needs to “pay the right focus on the value throughout the entire response.”
Vince notes that when law firms respond to RFPs, typically teams or individuals divide up responses to different sections of the RFPs. But for Vince, the total response needs to be “coordinated and cohesive and not siloed.”
As an example, Vince points to the TV show “Ink Master.” On Ink Master, sometimes multiple tattoo artists are given the specific sections of a single tattoo to complete. But to win the competition, the finished product must look like it was done by one artist. To Vince, the same is true for RFP responses. As he notes, “a client does not want to see 50 different perspectives. The client wants to see one perspective.”
Because he has seen every side of the RFP process, Vince understands the need for efficient and effective technology-enabled RFP, procurement, and business development processes to drive value. Corporations and law firms must understand what they need to provide accurate targets for service providers. Likewise, law firms need to identify client prospects and get access to corporate customers via open and actionable RFPs. With his background in data, Vince is currently looking at ways to use data analytics driven by Artificial/Augmented Intelligence (AI) to identify opportunities so he and his Holland & Knight can be ready to help potential clients immediately.
Advice for the Delivery of Value in Legal Services
Diversity of thought it crucial for success in the modern delivery of legal services. Organizations must “respect ideas and individuals regardless of their level or title.” To be successful, legal services providers need to “be open to all the ideas regarding how they can move the needle of value no who has the idea.” Vince believes it is just as important to recognize the ideas of the data and technology team members as it is to appreciate the ideas from the lawyers. Because the team is “here to provide value for the client, it is important to listen to all of the input on how we can help the client.”
Disclaimer: The statements of the interviewees in the Value Article Series are opinions and observations of a personal nature and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and policies of their respective employers.
About the Authors
Jeff Kruse (T) is President of Kruse Consulting and Dispute Resolution LLC where he consults with law firms and legal departments to help them operate more efficiently through technology implementation and Lean Six Sigma to improve their bottom lines. He specializes in assisting firms and companies on the RFP process. www.kcadr.com
Cash Butler (B) is the founder of ClariLegal A seasoned legal technology innovator, Cash has over 18 years of experience in the legal vertical market, primarily working in eDiscovery, litigation & compliance. Cash is an expert in legal vendor, pricing and project management.
ClariLegal is a preferred vendor management platform for legal services that improves business outcomes. Made for legal by legal experts. We match corporations and law firms with preferred vendors to manage the work through a fast and complete RFP and bidding process. ClariLegal’s platform allows all internal client segments to improve business outcomes across the board – predictability, time and money. Learn more