The second day of a two and a half day conference can sometimes wane in attendance and engagement, but Day 2 at ACC’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Boston didn’t show any sign of diminishing interest. Attendees dispersed throughout the exhibit hall for their morning coffee and croissants, while chatting with the 100+ exhibitors and sponsors on hand to offer insight about their services and in-house counsel offerings. The majority of this year’s sponsors were returning exhibitors, but there were a number of new organizations, as well. Washington, DC-based law firm, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, was one of the new firms exhibiting this year, and Felice Wagner, Chief Client Service Officer, said it was a great experience for the eight attorneys that joined her.
“It was illuminating for some of the attorneys to not only see the number of in-house counsel, but also, the number of Sutherland clients that were here. The high-level of the attendees, along with their genuine interest and engagement, has been great,” Wagner noted.
A long-time supporter of ACC, and recipient of the 2009 President’s Award, Ogilvy Renault, too, believed there was a higher level of engagement with those they spoke to. Senior Partner, Andrew Fleming, commented that this year attendees were not just looking for general information, but had specific questions. “We’ve spoken to attendees that had questions about a particular issue, or to others that weren’t happy with their current outside counsel and interested in learning more about Ogilvy.”
Lise Monette, Ogilvy’s Chief Marketing Officer, was happy with the added feature of being able to qualify leads on the lead tracking device, saying that it will be useful for when they get back to the office and coordinate follow up plans for those they spoke to at the conference.
For others, the Annual Meeting provided a platform for unveiling new products and/or services geared toward the in-house counsel market. Fios Inc., a provider of electronic discovery services, and Ajilon Legal, a worldwide expert in legal staffing and litigation management, unveiled a partnership to help corporations and law firms effectively inject cost control and predictability into the complex e-discovery process.
Brad Gragert, senior vice president of sales at Fios, noted that "By combining the core Fios and Ajilon competencies and expertise, legal teams now have a single resource for processing, review and production services. Additionally, our combined services will provide legal professionals with improved cost predictability and budget management for e-discovery projects."
The ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey was released during the meeting, and the media and attendee interest kept Rob Thomas, Serengeti’s Vice President of Strategic Development, busy. For the first time in three years, the survey found that controlling spending on outside counsel returned as the top priority for in-house counsel, topping compliance concerns. The need to drive efficiency is leading to more value-based policies to reduce overall legal spend, and clients are looking to negotiate more flexible value-based fee and service models.
“In-house counsel want a single online system where they can manage all of their legal work directly with all of their outside counsel worldwide, not a maze of different law firm extranets or internal systems that don’t connect with outside counsel,” says Thomas, the author of the survey report.
Several of attendees that stopped by the Serengeti booth asked Thomas about the survey, wanting to know more about this year’s findings and interpretation of the data. Thomas, too, acknowledged that substantive inquiries dominated the questions he addressed with this year’s attendees.
Practical Law Company, a leading provider of practical know-how for business lawyers and newest ACC Alliance partner, introduced its new “PLC Law Department” service, which will officially launch in 2010. Designed to help in-house law departments maximize value, practice more efficiently and control legal spend, the new service has been catered specifically for legal departments to make sure they have the practical resources needed to get the job done.
“The interest in hearing about the new service has been terrific,” explained Ian Nelson, PLC’s Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. “We’ve had great interaction with everyone that has stopped by to learn more about the service and many have had questions about substantive issues and how to use practical resources to be more efficient.”
At a time when it is critical to be as efficient as possible and deliver even greater value to clients, it’s no surprise that attendees were interested in hearing more about ways to streamline internal processes. The topic was repeated many times throughout conference and during the session, “The Slow Motion Riot – Revolutionizing Law Department Cost Management,” law department leaders and law firm management discussed how the ACC Value Challenge can help to support this high priority goal of efficient, effective and professional practice.
For Jeff Carr, Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of FMC Technologies, Inc., value means “efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction,” something to which he holds his outside firms accountable to. And, the move away from the billable hour (yes, fodder, for a future – more in-depth Blog post) is forcing law firms to sit up, listen and respond to the wave of change that is forcing alternatives to the traditional business model. While law firms grapple with the increased demands, in-house counsel, too, are wrestling with their own internal processes to ensure greater efficiency and value-based legal services.
The over 100 event sponsors and exhibitors that were on hand - from international law firms, to top litigation support providers and to leaders in knowledge management – were all afforded with the unique opportunity for one-on-one interaction with in-house counsel to educate them about cost efficient solutions. As ACC President Fred Krebs noted, “I often hear from in-house counsel that they welcome the opportunity to interact with Annual Meeting sponsors as it provides them with a one-stop way to engage with organizations and learn more about value-based solutions.”
As this year’s Annual Meeting approaches its final sessions, the information gleaned from the sessions, interaction with attendees and conversations with supporters will be taken back to legal departments for implementation. For some, it will provide them with a new way of thinking and acting, for others it will reconfirm processes already in place. And, while the tchotchkes and give-aways were fun and drew interest, it will be the tools, resources, educational information and newly formed relationships that will have long-term value.