Jeff Carr and Pat Lamb have long collaborated on efforts to reshape the law firm-legal department relationship, and in so doing have not hesitated to reimagine both law firms and legal departments. Jeff was a well-known change catalyst during his 13-year tenure as General Counsel of FMC Technologies, Inc. [FMCT] (during which he reduced legal department spend by over 40% even as FMCT’s revenues increased fourfold), and Pat (a former BigLaw partner) is a founding member of and a driving force in the now 7-year old Chicago-based Valorem Law Group, a New Model litigation firm noted for providing clients with new approaches to defining, pricing and delivering value in legal service delivery.
Thought Leaders Thinking Alike
Today they announced that Carr, who retired from leading FMCT’s legal department in 2014, will join Valorem, an exciting but unsurprising development inasmuch as Valorem and FMCT have enjoyed a long and effective law firm-client relationship. While developing a singularly effective working collaboration over the years, Carr and Lamb established themselves throughout the legal world as thought leaders both in what they call “Engaged Law,” which emphasizes addressing business problems more than simply selling traditional legal services, and in “Next Law,” which emphasizes preventing various kinds of legal problems before they occur.
Carr and Lamb share an intense focus on value as perceived by the client, a perspective championed by Carr in his work on the ACC Value Challenge while a member of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s board. At the same time, Lamb became a fierce proponent for value-based billing in the form of alternative fee arrangements for high-stakes litigation that were not predicated on any form of hourly billing. His passion led him to pen two books: Alternative Fee Arrangements: Value Fees and the Changing Legal Market and Alternative Fees for Litigators and Their Clients. His intense client focus is apparent both in his blog, In Search Of Perfect Client Service, and his regular ABA Journal column, The New Normal.
A New Mouse Trap
But Carr is not joining Valorem as a litigator or litigation manager. Instead, he will head up a distinct service platform called ValoremNext, in which he will advise legal departments in preventing the kinds of problems that both wallop outside legal spend and adversely affect their companies’ business operations. Many of these problems focus on litigation and its enormous costs, but Carr emphasizes that ValoremNext will also advise clients on avoiding issues relating to corporate contracting and business operations, as well as best practices for legal departments.
We asked Lamb if it was not counterintuitive, if not potentially suicidal, for a litigation firm to offer sophisticated litigation prevention services. “Look,” said Lamb, “let’s be clear: there will always be litigation. The plaintiff’s bar is not going away, and there will always be unavoidable breakdowns in business transactions. We can hold our own in the litigation marketplace, especially with our cost-effective approach to value-based billing and more efficient management of litigation.”
Redefining the Mouse
“But beyond that,” Lamb says, “ we’re convinced that our long term interests lie in showing clients not just that we are skilled litigators, but that we are wise collaborators in meeting the needs of both the legal department and the business as a whole. ValoremNext’s strategic goal is to foster the kind of relationships we enjoyed with FMCT over the years – relationships that start with the client, end with the client, and have the client deeply involved in every stage in between. Who can do that better than Jeff Carr?”
Carr concurs that the prevention platform makes solid strategic sense and represents a fundamentally different way of looking at legal service delivery. “The best legal problems are the ones you don’t have. We are going to provide the kind of common sense and managerial tools that are common in the business world, but not so common in the parallel universe of ‘Lawland.’ In working with legal departments, ValoremNext will emphasize that in-house counsel should not operate as lawyers – not legal content and process people; that’s what outside counsel are for. In-house people instead should be business counselors who help clients achieve business success. ”
Points of Entry
“So what will ValoremNext consulting look like?” we asked. “Where will it start and what will it do?” Having long preached that a crucial part of legal project management is rigorous post-project review, we nodded in agreement when Carr suggested that with many clients he would work first to establish a disciplined After Action Review Process. “Only through this process can a legal department identify the root causes that give rise to problems, as well as defining what has worked well in the past.”
Carr expects to find a second point of entry in legal departments, especially small or relatively budget-constrained ones, that lack the resources, tools or savvy to implement best practices and engineer intra-departmental changes in roles and attitudes. “Our role will not be to lecture legal departments on theory, but to get familiar with their potential issues at the ground level, whether they be environmental, products liability, contracts, regulatory or problems caused by others outside the company. Think of it as ‘hands-on thought leadership.’”
Lamb and Carr acknowledge that it’s too early to tell the directions in which ValoremNext will evolve. “Any assistance we provide obviously will build on our legal department experience and judgment,” says Carr, “but that may come to include many roles, including ‘Board Whisperer,’ ‘GC Whisperer,’ ‘GC in a Box, or even legal outsourcing resource for certain kinds of hands-on work.
“Two principles impacting legal departments are clear to us, however. First, in the pressure-cooker of providing more with less, more keeps getting more and less (particularly outside legal spend) will keep getting less. While promoting efficiency and consistency will always be a good sell, the step change in cost reduction comes from prevention of problems to handle in the first place. Second, as the legal profession becomes increasingly client-driven, it will become increasingly value driven. That is our brand, and it is fertile territory for a First Mover.”
© 2015, Pam Woldow and Doug Richardson. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without prior written approval.