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The eValueators: Thoughts on the Evolving Nature of “Value” in the Business of Legal Services


By Cash Butler and Jeff Kruse.



Value is an evasive concept. In economics, value is a measure of the benefit provided by goods or services measured to units of currency. Dictionaries broadly define value as the monetary worth of goods or services, the fair return in exchange for goods or services, or the worth of goods or services in exchange for currency.


But none of those basic definitions are helpful for a legal service provider who wants to provide maximum value for its clients. Plus, none of these generic definitions fail to address the evolving nature of value in the third decade of the 21st century.

Law is a business. Law firms are businesses. To succeed, firms must deliver value for their clients. Legal departments are integral parts of their businesses and are more and more considered businesses themselves. Legal departments must deliver value for their clients.


Jeff Carr, the former long-time General Counsel of FMC Technologies who had a shorter stint as GC of Univar Solutions, created an equation for value. His equation states that “delivered value” is “effectiveness (objective obtained) + Efficiency (actual/budget, right people, right tools, leverage to reduce costs & produce quality) + Experience (customer’s experience with provider).”


Cash Butler has proposed a formula for measuring value. The first measure in the value formula is “the importance of the good or service being acquired.” The second measure is “the category of risk the customer is seeking to mitigate or eliminate.” The third measure is “the customer’s prioritization of the value that the vendor or service provides,” including costs, promptness, responsiveness, and expertise. The fourth measure “is the customer’s desired outcome.”


Even the value equation and the value formula are not enough to provide concrete advice and examples for legal providers seeking best practices. Fortunately, the interviews in the ClariLegal Value Series provide additional insight from leading experts about what currently constitutes business value in the delivery of services in the legal industry. However, rather than interview one leading expert for this issue, we decided to ask a number of the key thought leaders to offer their thoughts on value from the past year and ask them to make a prediction about value for 2021.


These experts constitute the inaugural class of the “eValueators Initiative.” R3Ex, a new organization focused on legal operations excellence providing assessment, consulting, and technology, developed the eValuators Initiative to bring together value experts who, through their breadth and depth of education and experience, are uniquely qualified to address the integral role legal services will play in delivering value to clients in the 21st Century.


The eValueators have proven that they are true practitioners of value in the business of providing legal services and understand how value is evolving in the 21st Century. They have worked for law firms, corporations, consultancies, and vendors. They have been providers of legal services, and they have been customers and clients. These experts have provided value from many different perspectives.


These experts have delivered business value to and within their organizations. They have also been gracious by sharing their insights on business value in the ClariLegal Value Series interviews in previous issues of Legal Business World. They have personally helped shape the growth and development of the legal operations over the last couple of decades and have expanded the understanding of the evolving nature of value in the legal business space.


We asked each expert to offer independent views without the opportunity to review what any of the other individuals wrote. The individual views expressed in this article are those of the experts and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employers. As with any collective observational and predictive endeavor, some of the experts may disagree with one another based on their perspectives while others will supplement each other. In alphabetical order by first name, here are the observations about value in 2020 and 2021 from this initial class of R3Ex’s eValueators.


Aaron D. Crews, Chief Data Analytics Officer at Littler


One observation about business value from 2020

When times are good and the economy is roaring, there is a lot of room for excess. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic bring the importance of value into sharp relief. Corporate legal departments tend to be cost centers, and events like a global pandemic compress legal budgets.

The last 12 months really underscore how important it is for lawyers to provide high value/high impact legal advice, and to deliver this in ways that meet the client where they are and at the speed of the business. Law firms that can build this into their DNA are likely to flourish in the years to come.


One prediction about business value for 2021

2021 is probably going to look a lot like 2020. The continued disruption from COVID-19 and other macro forces are likely to further entrench the emphasis on value going forward. In a lot of ways, we are likely navigating a watershed moment in the practice of law. I think many of the pandemic generated innovations that firms and companies have launched in the last 12 months are here to stay. Doubling down on what works is likely to lead to outsized results.


Alison Orlans, President and CEO for Orlans PC and Revlegal Services


One observation about business value from 2020

The challenges of 2020 forced innovation, resiliency and adaptability – and the companies that rose to these challenges will be better positioned for 2021. There was a shift in the prioritization of what people valued in 2020, with focus on family, home, and health permeating all aspects of our lives.


Hopefully some of the pandemic pivots continue-like broad acceptance of working from home, the efficiency of virtual court appearances, and enhanced use of technology. The ingenuity of 2020 was inspiring and showed us how monumental things can be accomplished when the goal is clear, and everyone is rowing the boat in same direction. We all learned something last year that will make us better leaders going forward.


One prediction about business value for 2021

In 2021 companies in the legal space will be challenged to provide more value, more efficiently, with more predictable costs. Working remotely during a pandemic is different than proactively evaluating and streamlining processes for the next generation of work. Expect more companies in the legal space to utilize technology and lean process to streamline routine and allow attorneys to focus on the highest value tasks. This will help lawyers focus on their areas of expertise and service providers to demonstrate cost effective results, ultimately delivering more value to clients. At Revlegal we call this law accelerated.


Audrey Rubin, Senior Advisor for BakerGilmore LLC

One Observation on business value from 2020

The need for Diversity, Inclusion and Justice in our businesses need better systems and lasting power became perfectly clear. Law departments have the best intentions, but without implementing new processes and understanding and tracking the data, we continue to only take baby steps.


One prediction about business value for 2021


General Counsel and others will hopefully bring in experts to advise on how to make DE&I in their departments and the company long-lasting and measurably improved.


Debbie Hoffman, CEO & Founder of Symmetry Blockchain Advisors, Inc. One observation about business value from 2020

Around the world, technology is being implemented at a rapid pace as social distancing requires innovative solutions that are both remote and digital. Businesses are embracing kitchen tables. The acceptance of new technology, along with the need for a change in established processes, opens the door for technology to grow in contexts well beyond traditional contexts.


One prediction about business value for 2021

Change is now a necessity, rather than a nicety. The legal services industry will embrace the digitization of files and implementation of technology efficiencies as a matter of course. Paper files are becoming a thing of the past and e-filings will be the norm. Attorneys will

incorporate technology advancements in all facets of their jobs, and law schools will train the next generation of lawyers with respect to utilization of new methodologies.


Dennis Kennedy, Interim Director, Center for Law, Technology & Innovatio


One observation about value from 2020

The value you bring to the table must be clearly and succinctly defined and stated AND it must align with the value your client wants and needs. There is now a premium placed on both reaching an understanding of value and communicating it. If you don’t understand and align to what your client values, you lose. If you can’t communicate that value, you lose


One prediction about business value for 2021

We have learned that everything works in an evolving interplay of complex systems. Value must now be considered in terms of how you improve both your client’s role in its ecosystem and how you bring value to the ecosystem itself. This shift will require both a new mindset and a new skillset. Understanding client ecosystems and the goals within the ecosystem are vital, whether their goal is digital transformation or survival. This movement has already begun and, if you keep your eyes open, you will see signs of it everywhere.

Jeff Kruse, President of Kruse Consulting and Dispute Resolution LLC One observation about business value from 2020

The pandemic accelerated the trend of legal consumers searching for maximum value from their legal service providers. At the beginning of the pandemic, a number of providers rushed content and services to the market without asking their clients about what the clients truly needed. As a result, many providers produced webinars, whitepapers, newsletters, and offered services that their clients did not really need. As the year progressed, successful providers asked their clients about their true needs and provided value by responding to the actual needs of the clients. The outward-focused providers proved to be more successful than the inward-focused providers.


One prediction about business value for 2021

Clients and consumers of legal services are growing more focused on assessing value in terms of results and are less interested in paying for the process of getting the desired results. Results-oriented valuing is prevalent in other professions outside of legal services like coaching and consulting. The same people and companies who are clients for coaches and consultants are also consumers of legal services and are beginning to see the value in paying for results rather than paying for time or paying for volume. That trend will intensify in 2021 and beyond. Because consumers of legal services will be more focused on results in evaluating value, the role of requests for proposal and how providers respond to those requests will be more prominent in 2021.


Mark Smolik, General Counsel & Compliance Officer, DHL Supply Chains Americas


One observation about business value from 2020

In 2020 those law departments that proactively adopted metrics to measure their own performance along with the performance of the firms they hire deepened the value they deliver to their organizations.


One prediction about business value for 2021

In 2021, I anticipate there will be significant focus among the legal industry on cyber security. Increasingly, data is considered to be "digital gold." Data needs to be protected from unauthorized access. Law departments will increasingly seek insight into how their law firms are protecting client data.


There will also be a deeper focus on diversity and inclusion. Law departments will embrace the reality that you can't manage effectively what you don't measure. Metrics among law department leaders will become the new buzz words. Law departments will see significant cost savings and value driven opportunities in holding their law firms accountable to performance standards and fees paid will be tied to performance.


Martin Tully, Partner & Founder of Actuate Law LLC

One observation about business value from 2020

“Involuntary acceleration” and “forced innovation” were two terms prominent in 2020. Organizations of all types, legal in particular, were compelled to quickly pivot and adopt or advance technological measures that facilitated remote work and increased collaboration among distant teams. Over time, altered habits and better familiarity and comfort with these tools have fostered more efficient workflows and B2B an B2C interactions that will enhance value in the delivery of legal services for many years to come. Almost overnight, technological curiosities have become engrained best practices.


One prediction about business value for 2021

As collaboration and the leveraging of innovative technologies become more widespread at an accelerated pace, metrics for value in the delivery of legal services will focus more on measurable results than the component parts that made them possible. The lines between traditional and nontraditional legal service providers will continue to blur, and in doing so, they will increasingly adopt components of one another in combinations most appropriate to maximize efficient and cost-effective outcomes. In addition, time being the commodity of highest value, more legal services will be delivered virtually and online, significantly reducing the amount of time spent in and getting to and from both the workplace and courtroom. Examples of things here to stay range from virtual court appearances, to online collaborative project meetings, to remote collection and review. Of course, pre-pandemic conceptions of data security and privacy will have to adapt to accommodate this new normal, as well as a U.S. privacy regulatory environment that looks increasingly European in nature.


Mike Bryant, Partner at Knox Capital Holdings


One observation about business value from 2020

The tidal wave of investments in key categories such as CLM has given corporate counsel a myriad of credible technology companies to choose from when it comes to driving efficiency and savings across their contract ecosystem.


One prediction about business value for 2021

I will buck conventional wisdom and predict that at least one of the Am Law 200 firms that had previously invested to diversify into an ancillary business, such as consulting, eDiscovery, staffing, etc. will break rank and sell or dissolve the unit thereby returning to their core business of practicing law.


Sheila Murphy, President & CEO, Focus Forward Consulting LLC


One observation about business value from 2020

2020 was such an unprecedented year in which both companies, law firms, and service providers needed to pivot quickly. In the pivot, what became apparent was the tremendous difference between legal service providers who tried to make customers fit into their services and those that honed the services to meet the customers' needs and make them more effective and efficient. Without all of the conferences and lunches and in that uncertain economic environment, I believe customers appreciated that difference even more in 2020. The more client-focused firms enter 2021, outpacing the inward-facing organizations.


One prediction about business value for 2021

I don't think it is a prediction but a fact that we will no longer operate or work the way we did in February 2020. That model is gone, and I believe some of the learnings will focus on how technology can make us more efficient and effective. Like all change, this change will bring opportunity. The firms that will leverage this opportunity best will not be those that "guess" what the new needs and impacts are-- but those that research and speak to their clients to learn about their needs and where they see themselves heading. As more organizations will be working and thinking differently, they are looking for partners to help them succeed.


Toby Brown, Chief Practice Management Officer for Perkins Coie LLP


One observation about value from 2020


The value of many lawyers went up in 2020. When the pandemic hit clients needed immediate advice and counsel on an ongoing basis as new needs emerged, laws were passed, and regulations continually changed. Clients relied heavily on their outside counsel to help them through this urgent time. And law firms stepped up with COVID updates, 50 state surveys and other pressing content and advice. This allowed clients to better navigate their way through very challenging times.


One prediction about business value for 2021

Law firm leadership and management were able to embrace more business-like actions (e.g., forecasting) to help them make better, more informed decisions as their businesses navigated through unknown waters. These new skills will play very well in 2021 and going forward. Firm leadership has seen the value of leveraging business tools and will continue to do so and expand their use.


Vincent Cordo, Jr., Chief Client Development and Relationship Officer at Holland & Knight LLP


One observation about business value from 2020

Value is being available, aware, and actively in touch with your clients and your teams. Value is what comes out of remaining focused building a clear understanding on what to do and when to do it, giving direction to your teams building on what works, stopping what doesn’t. Planning and delivering on what matters most when its needed, while helping and supporting one another still pushing to stretch boundaries on how to grow and innovate - avoiding the pitfalls of going into preservation mode.


One prediction about business value for 2021


To quote Kobe Bryant – “Never get bored with the basics.” 2021 is the year to focus on the basics, adapting to the change that will be an outcome of 2020 decisions. Program hygiene and relationship management will be critical in 2021. Getting the basics right to focus on setting up a better roadmap for 2022.

2021 will be the year to focus on mapping out how 2021 will setup what we hope to be a more normalized year in 2022, being active with customers understanding their change and how our teams can best position themselves to build relationships and how best to support them.


Conclusion

The pandemic forced sudden and massive changes in the delivery of legal-related services in 2020. The outlook for 2021 looks similar. The legal industry will continue to evolve as will clients’ perception of “value” in the business of delivering legal-related services. The ClariLegal Value Series Interviews and R3Ex’s new eValueators Initiative will continue to grow and advance the understanding of business value in the delivery of legal services in the 21st Century.


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 helps law firms and legal departments operate more efficiently so they can be more profitable. Jeff is a legal operations expert specializing in operational efficiency, outside counsel and vendor management, technology selection and implementation, and litigation management, www.kcadr.com


Cash Butler (B) is the founder of R3Ex and ClariLegal and a seasoned legal technology innovator. Cash has over 20 years of experience in the legal vertical market, primarily working in legal operations, vendor management, litigation and compliance. Cash is a legal operations expert who has provided consulting on operational processes and the identification and implementation of technology at numerous corporations, law firms, and other service providers that bring significant value to stakeholders.

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

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