Earlier this month, Martine Boucher participated in a panel discussion hosted by the ACC Alberta Chapter on the topic of “Managing Legal Spend: Demonstrating legal value in a changing landscape”. The event also featured the launch of the Thomson Reuters Institute 2023 Canadian Legal Market Update, a new report based on interviews with 272 in-house lawyers in Canada that highlights what Canadian law department leaders are thinking about managing their growth strategies, strategic investments, and performance. Sarah King, Associate General Counsel – Risk & Enterprise | Chief Ethics at the Canadian Western Bank, and Scott Jeffers, Vice President, Legal and Corporate Secretary at TransAlta, also joined the panel.
If you missed the panel, fret not. Here are the key takeaways from the discussion:
- Irrespective of the maturity of your legal operations, managing legal spend is a must. Scott discussed his process of setting up a program to manage outside counsel relationships and spend as a way to move on the maturity scale.
- With her futurist hat on, Martine encouraged in-house counsel to think about the impact that AI will have on legal spend, with tools like ChatGPT and whether a legal department wants to (or can afford to) spend time building knowledge internally, partner with others, or rely on outside providers to leverage such tools to reduce legal spend. It will be interesting to see if this could pave the way for more flat fees.
- Sarah highlighted that while expertise is a critical factor when selecting preferred providers, understanding the industry and providing a solution to a problem, rather than just a “legal answer,” is also very important. Measuring performance internally and externally is equally important. You can use NPS or conduct more formal surveys of clients. Still, it is also crucial to have ongoing conversations with different stakeholders to stay informed.
- Lastly, with legal department’s budget still under tremendous pressure, Martine reminded in-house counsel that with a good understanding of the different budgeting envelopes, you can find creative ways to manage your spend, especially when the organization is going through reorganization, M&A activities, or other similar special projects. Using an alternate legal service provider doesn’t have to be always invoiced to the legal department’s budget. As Churchill pointed out… “never let a good crisis go to waste”!