Predicting Trends in the Law | Brad Blickstein
Episode 10 | October 13, 2021
Episode 10 | October 13, 2021
Candice Reed talks to Brad Blickstein about the trends in Legal Ops over the past 13 years and his 14th Annual Law Department Operations Survey – open to Legal Operations professionals right now. Eligible professionals should participate, and by participating can learn what the Legal Futurist is learning about the growing role of Legal Ops in the market.
Brad Blickstein 00:00
We are really at the cusp of a pretty major change in how legal services get bought and sold.
Candice Reed 00:10
This is Leveraging Latitude, Cultivating a Full Life in the Law. And we are your hosts, Candice Reed.
Tim Haley 00:17
And Tim Haley.
Candice Reed 00:18
Please join us on our journey as we discover how to leverage the hard work of becoming a lawyer to achieving success and leading a rich and fulfilling life in the law.
Candice Reed 00:34
Hi Tim. How are you?
Tim Haley 00:36
Candice, I’m doing great. What have you got for us today?
Candice Reed 00:39
Well, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brad Blickstein, who is the Principal of Blickstein Group. You know Brad.
Tim Haley 00:49
I do, yeah.
Candice Reed 00:50
Probably a lot of our listeners know Brad as well. I think he describes himself or others describe him as a legal futurist. What that means specifically is that he runs the Blickstein Group. It’s a research and advisory firm, he says with two missions. The first one is to help legal service providers better understand and serve their clients. The second is to provide information about law departments and legal operations. This essentially is the second part of a conversation that we started earlier in episode four with Esther Bowers about legal operations and the professionalizing of the delivery and procurement of legal services, both at law firms and in law departments within companies and corporations.
Tim Haley 01:49
I had a great conversation with Esther way, way back, episode four. I feel like we’re old hat now.
Candice Reed 01:54
It was a minute ago.
Tim Haley 01:56
Yeah, it’s wild. But no, Brad’s great. I love the title. Legal Futurist. Is that a title or just a description?
Candice Reed 02:03
If it’s not a title, it should be, and I think it should come with a cape and a mask of some sort.
Tim Haley 02:10
And yeah, got to have a crystal ball too, right?
Candice Reed 02:11
Tim Haley 02:12
Like maybe a wizard. Yeah, it’s like a seer of the future, which is silly to think about, but that’s actually what Brad does. And you’re right, I know Brad pretty well, but he aggregates all this data and he’s able to see and predict things that all of us that are in the weeds can’t see and predict just because of the viewpoint and the data that he is able to gather.
Candice Reed 02:33
Yeah, and he is going to talk about his annual law department operations survey, which is open currently. People who practice or work in the area of legal operations can respond to the survey through October 15th. We will include the link in our podcast description for this episode. And this survey remains the largest and most comprehensive legal ops survey in the country. This is the 14th year that Brad has put the survey out and he talks about some of the trends that he has seen over the last 14, 15 years and some that he anticipates down the road.
Tim Haley 03:23
Yeah, the survey data, invaluable. If you’re listening and you’re eligible, participate, because all of this information helps all of us as a profession. Let’s hear what Brad has to say.
Candice Reed 03:33
Candice Reed 03:42
Brad, thank you so much for joining us today.
Brad Blickstein 03:45
Candice. I’m so happy to be here.
Candice Reed 03:46
Now, you have developed a national reputation for your insight into the changing ways that legal services are being consumed and delivered in the modern marketplace. And I’ve even heard you described as a legal industry futurist. What does that mean?
Brad Blickstein 04:06
Well, it probably means that I have some people who are pretty good at branding that I work with is probably what it mostly means.
Candice Reed 04:13
It’s a great title. It sounds like you should have a cape and a mask and a few hidden superpowers with that type of title.
Brad Blickstein 04:22
Yeah, I’ve been in the space a long time. I’ve been studying the space for a long time. The in-house market as well as how the relationship between in-house and law firms has evolved. And really, I think probably the key moment is when I launched the law department operations survey 14 years ago. And at that point people weren’t really thinking much about law department operations. It wasn’t that much of a thing yet. And I’m sure we’re going to talk more about that. But as the legal operations function has grown and organizations like CLOC have sprouted up and everything has happened, it sort of put me almost retroactively in a position where I’m able to say, “Look, I’m the one, or I was one of the first ones that saw that coming” and I’ve been doing this for 14 years when CLOC is what, seven years old or something. I kind of got ahead of the game on that one. Maybe I was prescient, maybe I was lucky. I’ll tell you in a minute if you want why, how I sort of got there.
Brad Blickstein 05:28
I’m in a position now where I at least made one really good prediction that absolutely came true. And because I have 14 years of research on it, as the kids probably used to say, probably don’t say anymore, I have the receipts. I feel like I can credibly call myself a futurist because I don’t know, I feel like in the legal industry, you make one good prediction over a career and that puts you ahead at most people. That’s my thinking.
Candice Reed 05:55
Yes. And just having the position or the foresight to be thinking in the future often puts you ahead because I think so many of us are focused on our very full lists of what to do today or the fires that we may be encountering in the hallways on our way to the cafeteria, that we never sit down and think about what’s going to happen in the future or planning for 6, 12, 18, 24 months down the road. Thankfully we have people like you out there to help guide us in that direction.
Candice Reed 06:36
Do you remember some of the signals or some of the cues that you got early on 14 plus years ago that suggested to you that this was going to be an area that would see a lot of growth?
Brad Blickstein 06:51
Yeah, absolutely. Before I started doing consulting and managed services and research and providing futuristic services or whatever we want to call that, I was one of the co-founders and the president of a magazine called Corporate Legal Times. It was the first independent magazine for in-house counsel specifically. We launched it in 1991. And among my managerial duties and my leadership duties there, I handled — for the advertising sales, we split the territories up not by geography but by type of business. The legal research companies were one category, that was one territory. The law firms were another territory and legal tech was a territory. And that was the territory that I ended up handling almost quite randomly. That territory I kept for myself, which wasn’t as big a thing back then. I mean, I think maybe when I started, about six legal tech tools that were specifically for in-house counsel, eight, some number like that, it certainly was not what it is today.
Brad Blickstein 07:56
And as folks came into the space, they all asked the same question. They said, “Who in the law department buys legal technology?” And it’s a reasonable question. I was a reasonable guy to ask. There wasn’t really an answer. There wasn’t really a dedicated person in the law department — this is back in the ’90s and early 2000s — to be the buyer. There were these products that were coming online and kind of no one in particular to sell them to. And I used to say, “Well, sometimes it’s the general counsel and sometimes IT gets involved.” This was before cloud. IT was almost always involved in some way. And sometimes it was the associate general counsel who had some sort of programming background. Like maybe studied COBOL in college or something and understood this stuff a little bit. Sometimes it was the paralegal that got caught unjamming the copier one too many times and all of a sudden was in charge of technology for the law department.
Brad Blickstein 08:51
But there was no real answer. Then we started seeing some of these early legal operations people, and it occurred to me that — when they existed — they were the answer. They didn’t always exist. Most law firms did not have one, but if they did, that person was in charge of buying everything the legal department buys other than legal services, other than law firm services. They were in that sort of critical position.
Brad Blickstein 09:16
Then I left a magazine still with this sort of thought in the back of my head and tried to think about — because I’m a commercial being at heart and was thinking, “How do I monetize this?” There’s this small, powerful group of people that are the buyers of the stuff that people I know want to sell. There’s got to be something there. But it wasn’t that big a group. The first year I did the survey, 2008, I feel like we got 80% of the market to respond, and it was 34 people. There just weren’t that many of these people.
Candice Reed 09:44
Brad Blickstein 09:45
We couldn’t do a magazine or a conference because what conference was I going to do with 34 people?
Candice Reed 09:51
Brad Blickstein 09:54
We ended up launching the survey in 2008 and like I said got most of the market to respond that first year, and it’s been off and running since then. There’s my extremely long answer to your really simple direct question.
Candice Reed 10:06
Well, it’s interesting because I think many of us now work with professionals who are in the legal ops or legal operations space. But for those who may be in law departments who don’t have a mature legal ops team, please tell us what legal ops is. Is it just the purchasers of technology or has it evolved beyond that to include more recently?
Brad Blickstein 10:38
Oh, it’s certainly evolved to include more. I like to describe it as the function within the law department that professionalizes the law department. And I don’t mean professional as in legal professional services. I mean, business professional services. If a law department wants to act more like a business, wants to act more like other business units in the organization, legal ops people are the professional business managers that bring you there. That includes purchasing technology. It includes purchasing or if not directly purchasing, setting up systems to purchase legal services, law firm services. It includes identifying ALSPs or flexible staffing or flexible talent companies —
Candice Reed 11:29
Yeah. I know a person. If you need that, I know a person.
Brad Blickstein 11:33
You have a good option for that. That’s probably a good example. If you’re forgetting about the specific role and specific things they do, they are … If you provide flexible legal talent as you do, you have to make the reason to use you — there’s a business case for it, right? There’s a business case for using flexible talent rather than just calling your law firm up again and paying for an associate partner track person again. There’s all kinds of places where that’s probably not the best way to get work done. It’s typically someone in a legal ops role who has the capability to analyze that and understand the business impact of working differently. Anything that falls under that umbrella is really legal ops as well as sort of making the trains run on time and making the legal department sort of look and feel and act more like every other department in the organization.
Candice Reed 12:30
Who are the professionals who are generally in these roles? Are they businesspeople? Are they attorneys? If they are attorneys, are they also practicing law or are they exclusively focusing on the business of running the law department usually?
Brad Blickstein 12:51
Those are good questions and as you probably won’t be surprised, I have some data on that.
Candice Reed 12:57
Let’s hear it.
Brad Blickstein 12:59
Among people who are dedicated legal operations professionals, that is they are full-time legal ops people, that’s all they do, they don’t also practice. About a third have a law degree and the rest do not have a law degree. There’s a school of thought that if you have a law degree, you’re sort of better respected and you’re easier to sell your point of view to the lawyers. I don’t know if I believe that. You certainly have to understand the law and the business of law, but I don’t, maybe just because I’m not a lawyer and I feel like I’ve never had trouble, I don’t know if I agree with that, but there’s certainly a school of thought that the lawyers on the legal team will listen to you more if you’re actually a lawyer. There’s some of that. There’s about a third.
Brad Blickstein 13:43
When we first started the survey, about maybe half of the legal ops people also practiced. They were an AGC of litigation or something and they also handled legal ops and that’s becoming less frequent. And among our respondents, only about 20% now are part-time legal ops people and full-time … Or also part-time practicing lawyers. Are they businesspeople? They certainly ought to be businesspeople. It’s still a maturing space. I don’t think we figured out exactly where the talent is going to come from as legal ops grows, we’re seeing contract management people, people who run that process being retitled as legal ops. We’re seeing experienced folks who were more in a chief of staff type role moving from company to company. We see consultants moving back and forth in-house and outside, and we’re seeing people sort of move up the food chain within the law, within the legal ops side of the law department, people who manage legal spend, people who manage law firm services becoming heads of legal ops. It’s not very settled. And I think it’s an issue, I think this is a growing space and an emerging space and making sure that law departments have the right talent to get the value out of legal ops and not get frustrated by, “Oh, that’s just some stupid trend everyone’s talking about.” I think that’s a hurdle we’re going to have to overcome as a space.
Candice Reed 15:15
As you were talking, I was thinking about some of the degree programs that I’ve seen crop up recently among law schools where they are offering graduate degrees, but not to practice law, but for professionals who work with lawyers and work with legal departments, but who are not interested in practicing law or not practicing law. Are you familiar with some of those programs? Are they geared towards training legal operations professionals?
Brad Blickstein 15:50
I think they are, but there’s a gap there in terms of I don’t think the law firms, a lot of departments really understand the kind of people that those programs are turning out or how to recruit them. And I think that’s vice versa. And I’ll tell you a quick story about that. One of my oldest and closest friends, his daughter was in the Peace Corps or something, and she came home to Chicago because of COVID and ended up in the Master of Law program — she doesn’t have a law degree — in the Master of Law program at Northwestern and left that, finished, and wasn’t exactly sure where she was going to enter up what she was going to do. And I didn’t know that she was in that program. I hadn’t talked to my buddy about that. And he doesn’t exactly know what I do, because what am I going to do, go tell my friends that I’m a legal industry futurist? There’s no way I’m doing … No way. I can’t afford that. He doesn’t really understand what I do. And so, he told his daughter, who I’ve literally known since the week she was born, like, “Oh, go talk to this guy, he’s a lawyer, he can maybe help you figure it out.” And that guy called me and he’s like, “I’m talking to Joanna. She just graduated from this master’s program at Northwestern. She wants to do exactly what you do.”
Brad Blickstein 17:01
So, I get on the phone with her, and she’s told me some of the jobs she applied for, and you do them online and you get these algorithms and none of them … She wasn’t getting much luck in the job market. And I made a few phone calls, I called people, I made a few phone calls. I told her because I’m pretty well connected, honestly. And I told her, “When you see a job on LinkedIn or if I see a job, you apply and you tell me that you applied, and I’ll see if I can grease the skids for you.” And she had two offers and three overtures in four weeks or three weeks. These organizations need the talent. They understand that. And believe me, it wasn’t because I vouched for Joanna because I couldn’t vouch for Joanna. She’s a child to me —
Candice Reed 07:51
She likes unicorns and bugs.
Brad Blickstein 17:55
That’s right. And I mean, I’ve never worked with her in a professional environment and I couldn’t really recommend her. I mean, I think she’s a smart kid, but I didn’t recommend her in that way. But just the connection, the connection was missing. The connection between legal ops jobs and jobs in the broader legal ecosystem at consulting firms, at law firms. The connection wasn’t made, something wasn’t firing because again, she didn’t get all these opportunities because she knows me. She just found these opportunities because she knows me or more, they found her.
Brad Blickstein 18:30
I think that’s going to be a big step for us when we can figure out how to … The program is good and the jobs are good, but the pipeline between them isn’t really there yet. And she ended up with a great job at a great law firm doing the kind of work she wants to do, which is amazing. But I feel like there’s probably a lot of people out there, they’re sort of lost. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of people who are like, “Oh, we need young talent. Where do we find it?” They’re just sort of talking past each other.
Candice Reed 18:55
This is where I get to give the shameless plug because I’ve got the microphone. But we’re seeing the same thing in filling or working with our clients who routinely we’re hiring or engaging attorneys and paralegals, but in recent years, there became this increased demand for legal operations professionals. But as you just said, nobody knew where to get them. And so we’ve recently started focusing in that area as well and providing that flexible talent as well as connecting people who are wanting to hire someone permanently in that space. Where are you finding that these jobs are? Who are the companies who generally have mature legal operations positions or teams at this point?
Brad Blickstein 19:47
Yeah, it’s where you would expect. It’s bigger companies rather than smaller companies. And I’m speaking generally, of course, bigger companies rather than smaller companies. West Coast tech, Silicon Valley tech type companies seem to be leading the charge as well as financial services companies and to some extent pharma companies, which I’m sure is just, I mean, the answer you would expect, right? That’s where you would think those jobs are. The other thing that I think is interesting is that, so there’s a bunch of different areas we sort of touched on it before, that legal ops touches. There’s outside counsel management, there’s technology, there’s contract management, there’s legal spend management. I mean, some organizations, they run IP management. CLOC has that wheel of 12 core competencies as if there’s a human on earth with all 12 of those. We’re seeing sort of functions within the legal ops function where people see, and we’re seeing people rise up through those functions.
Brad Blickstein 20:50
You could be a legal spend analyst that then gets a job as sort of head of legal spend management at another company and then you end up as the head of legal operations at a third company over maybe an eight-year span or something. I think a lot of the growth towards the top job is going to come from these bigger teams and legal ops than there used to be. I mean, really when we started the survey, it was a chief of staff job. You had one person and some of the really mature operations like DuPont back in the day, they had 15 people in legal ops, which for a company that size would be a very average size team I think these days. They were complete outliers back then.
Candice Reed 21:33
You mentioned earlier that when you first launched your survey in 2008 that you had about 34 participants. How many do you have now, or do you expect in 2021?
Brad Blickstein 21:47
That’s a great question. We’ve had over a hundred respondents every year for the past, I don’t know, eight years, maybe six. I don’t know, many years. And we expect probably 125 to 130 this year, something like that. You got to understand that we only accept one entry per company. 130 respondents represent 130 companies, which is probably still, if you look at companies with any sort of reasonably mature legal ops function, that there’s probably 20% of the market already because there’s just not that many. There’s 500, 600, I don’t know, but some number like that I think that have, let’s say just for our purposes, enough legal ops to be worth taking the survey.
Candice Reed 22:32
What is worth taking the survey or why would someone take the survey? I know that it’s free and I also know that it probably takes a few minutes to answer all of the questions. What are the returns that someone who participates in the survey might receive?
Brad Blickstein 22:51
Yeah, so it’s benchmarking. From the survey we published two reports and one includes usually 25 or so data points. This is a public report, 25 or so data points and a bunch of analysis from me and from some of our advisory board members and our sponsors. And that’s a valuable piece, but that’s broadly distributed. If you want all 300 data points, you have to take the survey. That’s the only way. The only people who get all 300 data points in the non-public report, what we call the full results package, are you got to take the survey. That’s 300 data points across all kinds of different areas around legal ops. That’s a lot of benchmarking. And you’re right, it takes about a half hour to take the survey. It’s real time. We understand that. But when you start to think about what you would pay a consulting firm for that kind of benchmarking, it’s a whole lot more than whatever a half hour is worth, even though I do value that half hour quite a bit.
Candice Reed 23:48
Sure, absolutely. What are some of the benchmarks, not necessarily the benchmarks themselves, but what are they marking? Are we talking about compensation or legal spend? Both and more, I’m assuming?
Brad Blickstein 24:03
Way more. Yeah, both of those things. Compensation, legal spend, we talk about technology, what technologies are in play at these law departments, what they are thinking of bringing on or what they’re evaluating? There’s a bunch of maturity questions. How mature is your law department in all kinds of different areas? Type map’s not terribly far from the CLOC wheel. How mature are you in this area? How mature are you in that area? Some deeper questions on contract management, which is probably the hottest topic within legal ops right now and a whole … There’s more, and then a whole bunch of yes or no opinion type questions about does your law department do this? Do your law firms do this?
Brad Blickstein 24:51
The question is, are your law firms good at suggesting alternative fee arrangements? Do you feel like your law firms are applying technology to your benefit? They’re not all “do you think your law firms,” but it’s a bunch of questions like that. You got a good sense for both what is going on within law departments and what legal ops people think about their own space and the folks that they interact with.
Candice Reed 25:18
How would you anticipate that someone participating in the survey would use the data that they receive?
Brad Blickstein 25:26
Well, I would hope that everyone who sees that they are below the median compensation can use it to get themselves a nice raise. That would be a good use for-
Candice Reed 25:36
That’s reason enough to take it right there.
Brad Blickstein 25:40
Yeah, I think it is. And maybe if you’re above the median, maybe you just don’t report that to your general counsel. And so, I think that’s a good one. I think that if the broad topic here is bringing professionalism to the law department, law departments are run historically pretty unprofessionally, right? Any lawyer in the law department can hire their own counsel. Everyone can do work any kind of way they want. There’s often no sort of foundational technology that is forced to be used by everybody necessarily. There’s lots of inefficiencies that you can try to close, lot of places you can go.
Brad Blickstein 26:22
I think maybe the single best use, I think, is to identify if you’re new at this, identify maybe where you should think about starting in terms of your journey towards professionalization of the law department. And if you’re more mature then identify what’s next? What are their folks doing? What do they feel is working? Where are other respected law departments sort of more mature where you feel like you’re less mature and you can use that to build a little bit of a roadmap towards what your next steps can be.
Candice Reed 26:55
This is the longest running research study of its kind. You have had access to a lot of data over the last 14 years. What are some of the trends that you have seen develop over time within the legal industry?
Brad Blickstein 27:17
Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, broadly speaking, just the rise of the legal operations function is probably the biggest one. I mean, honestly, sort of in one way the most important trend is almost just the number of people who take the survey each year because that’s indicative of the overall growth of the space. I think that’s the other thing that I think we found that is interesting is when we started, when it came to the relationship with outside counsel, the legal ops people, they might run your process of building your panel counsel or something like that, but they really never got involved with choosing the law firms that you would work with. They would build the framework, but then they weren’t making the decisions within there.
Brad Blickstein 28:04
That’s changed quite a bit. They’re much more common, they’ll be sitting at the table in those discussions. They’re decision makers on who get at least both on who gets to be on the panel, but also in some cases which firm they choose overall. I think that from a pure law department operations sort of standpoint, legal ops professional standpoint, that’s something we’ve seen. Then overall, I think we’re early in the trend towards using data to make decisions and not just lawyers’ experiences. And I think that we are really at the cusp of a pretty major change in how legal services get bought and sold.
Candice Reed 28:46
In what way?
Brad Blickstein 28:50
For years, still to this day in many law departments, the law firm was selected by the in-house counsel. The associate general counsel would get to choose whatever law firm he or she wanted for whatever project he or she had. And sometimes they were forced to choose from within the panel that had been set up. And that’s been more of a trend over the past 10 years or so. But often just they got to pick whoever they want. And that commercial relationship was between counsel and counsel, between AGC and law firm partner. And that is changing. We are seeing more and more law department operations folks get involved, they’ve sort of become the commercial center of the relationship on the law department side.
Brad Blickstein 29:34
And we’re seeing legal pricing people, legal project management people, some call them legal operations people on the law firm side and business development people starting to be the crux of the commercial operation on the law firm side. We’re slowly leaving a world, I think, where folks were non-professionals … I mean, they’re legal professionals, but non-business professionals are in control of enormous budgets based upon — cynically, I’ll say golf buddies, but less cynically the lawyer they trust who they feel like did a good job on the last … Less cynically, that’s less cynical.
Candice Reed 30:17
Brad Blickstein 30:19
And moving towards a situation where professional buyers and sellers of legal services are making those decisions.
Candice Reed 30:27
I know that for all of my career in the legal industry, so 20 plus years, I have often heard people say that the law business is a people business or a relational business where these relationships, whether they’re developed on the golf course or over the course of a case or a deal, that that is key. That is how law firms and law firm partners will often develop business. But the center of the commercial transaction, if you will, is the relationship. Do you see that changing? And if so, is that a good or bad thing?
Brad Blickstein 31:09
Over time, I do see it changing. I mean, I am not saying that we’re going to wake up in 2022 and every AGC in the country is going to be — not have the ability to hire the people that they feel comfortable with. That’s certainly not going to be the case. But we’re starting to see more data analysis based upon these buying decisions. And by the way, just because you as an AGC or legal professional think that the guy that you’ve used before is the best choice for this work and they’re most likely to win your matter or settle for the least or make the issue go, whatever your success factors are, you may not be right. I mean, when you start looking at parsing the data and seeing who does what well and who has … There’s a reasonable chance that the person you trust is not the person you should trust the most.
Brad Blickstein 31:59
I think we’re starting to move away from this pure instinctual experience-based purchasing methodology and towards something a little more formal and a little more data driven, but it’s still a people business. I think it’s always going to be a people business. It’s going to be very challenging if you force every one of your lawyers to work with outside counsel that they don’t like or trust. That’s not good in the long term. But data is the great equalizer and I think we’re moving towards more of a data-driven market, and I think we’re going to have to move more towards a data-driven market because there’s so many more options for the provision of legal services than there used to be. You can’t really just, “Do we want law firm A or law firm B or lawyer A or lawyer B?” Now with technology and with the rise of ALSPs and flexible staffing models and all kinds of different ways to do things, you really need a more sophisticated analysis in how to get the legal work done than you would expect an AGC to be able to just do on their own. It was simple when it was, “Can we do this work in-house?” “Nope, don’t have the bandwidth for that or don’t have the experience for that. Let’s go outside. Who should we hire?” “Well, James did a good job last time and I really like his associate, Kimberly, so let’s get them again.” And there’s way too many options right now for them.
Candice Reed 33:30
Yeah, so it sounds like you’re saying that the relationship is still important, but that’s one factor in the decision-making process of how to get legal work done.
Brad Blickstein 33:42
Yeah, I should have just said that. Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Candice Reed 33:45
I had the perspective of being able to hear everything that you said and then just sum it up. Brad, I’m going to ask you to put your futurist cape on here and tell us what you think the next trend will be. How has our collective experience over the last two years of the pandemic changed how we perform or deliver or purchase legal services, if at all? But what do you see next on the horizon for the legal industry?
Brad Blickstein 34:19
One thing I’m really keeping my eye on is the extreme amount of demand that there is in the legal space right now and the pressure that is putting on law firms. I mean, Candice, I know your life every day is helping law firms find associates that kind of don’t want to be found right now and law firm we’re going to see, there’s pent up litigation, there’s M&A is going nuts when the current administrations maybe can focus a little less on COVID and gets back to what Democrat administrations tend to do, which is more antitrust, more regulation, more of those things. We’re going to see a bigger impact in those areas as well. I think demand is going to continue to increase and supply of traditional legal services by Big Law firms is not going to increase. They’re losing associates. It’s hard to retain people. It’s kind of not working great.
Brad Blickstein 35:21
The question that’s a long wind up to the following question, which is that going to be the catalyst for more innovation? That is the argument for using ALSPs and flexible legal talent and captive ALSPs and technology and process has often been your clients are seeing they want that stuff and it’s a better way to practice than it’s the right thing to do. The results from those arguments have been middling, some innovation, what I like to call new law around the edges but hasn’t fully taken hold. Will it take hold when law departments — excuse me, when law firms cannot get the work done without it? Will they be more interested in applying technology to make themselves more efficient when the alternative is to tell a client, “We can’t do the work” or “We’ll get it to you in three months?” Which is usually not an acceptable timeframe. When you’re in a position where you can figure out how to do work differently and more efficiently or lose clients, that may be the thing that pushes us over the top in terms of law firm innovation.
Candice Reed 36:32
Well, Brad, I appreciate you looking into your crystal ball and kind of giving us a glimpse of what you think the future of the legal industry may look like. For those of our listeners who may be interested in participating in your law department operations survey, how can they get access to that survey and is it something that they can do so that they can get some of this benchmark data to help them professionalize their own teams or businesses?
Brad Blickstein 37:05
We restrict it to law departments. We don’t want anyone who’s not in a law department taking —
Candice Reed 37:09
And those are corporate law departments, right?
Brad Blickstein 37:11
Corporate law departments, right. If you’re at a law firm or a consulting firm, please don’t take the survey, unless you’re a GC of a big consulting firm or something like that, unless you’re in the law department there. And it’s an online survey. It’s open at least until October 15th. Usually honestly, we keep it open a couple weeks after we’re officially supposed to close it, and it’s online at LDOSurvey.com. Maybe you can put a link in there or something on the-
Candice Reed 37:41
Brad Blickstein 37:42
… platform. But all you got to remember is LDOSurvey.com. It’ll take you right to the online form. A couple things, the bad news is it does take about half an hour, and if you need a break or you need to stop for a minute, you can come back and do it. You can do it in two or more sessions. The good news is that we are sticklers as we put together the questionnaire for not asking anything that a legal ops professional wouldn’t know. You won’t have to go and look up some data, you won’t have to go and figure something out. Everything, it’s all stuff that if you’re an LDO, you should know the answer to those questions. It’s a ton of questions, but you should be able to whip right through them. Then again, I think that 30 minutes of your time for 300 benchmarking data points is a good trade.
Candice Reed 38:31
Brad Blickstein 38:33
That’s my offer.
Candice Reed 38:34
And who doesn’t like filling out surveys, right? It takes me back to all those teen magazines with the quizzes that I used to fill out when I was younger. It’s fun. It does sound like there’s some great data to be had and that it can help inform some decisions and kind of show legal departments where they may want to head into 2022 and beyond. Thank you for doing that, for seeing the need and filling the gap, and I appreciate your perspective and sharing some of the research that you’ve collected over the years and like I said, looking into the future with us to see what trends we may be encountering in the months and years ahead. Thank you for your time today, Brad.
Brad Blickstein 39:22
No, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here, I’m always excited to talk about these things and I love doing so with someone who’s really right on the cutting edge of this. I’m talking about this and seeing what I see, but I’m not filling any legal ops jobs for anybody, and I’m not on the cusp of the actual new ways that law firms and law departments are doing business. It’s exciting to speak with you who is living and breathing it every day.
Candice Reed 39:47
Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. Well, let’s talk again soon.
Brad Blickstein 39:49
Look forward to it.
Tim Haley 40:01
Candice, that was a great job. It’s a lot of really valuable and important information. What were your biggest takeaways?
Candice Reed 40:07
Well, I think that perhaps the most interesting trend is simply the evolution of the legal operations function itself. As Brad mentioned, 15, 20 years ago, the various functions that legal operation professionals now manage were probably done by various people in the legal department, maybe some of the lawyers, maybe some of the paralegals, legal assistants. And now those business functions are centralizing within a legal ops team. And you are seeing, or we are seeing, professionals who are experts in this area. Brad talked about how law schools and business schools are now recognizing this need and providing classes, even some degrees in this area. Jobs specifically with titles like legal operations are now much more frequent. And of course, that’s where we are seeing it. We’re not only working with people with legal operations titles and responsibilities, but we’re actually recruiting and placing people in those jobs.
Tim Haley 41:30
Yeah, legal ops is not new. I mean, there’s some companies still where the general counsel is the legal ops director, right?
Candice Reed 41:38
Tim Haley 41:38
They’re responsible for the budget. They’re handling that legal operations function, the same as the legal ops person in the, I don’t want to say more traditional sense, but the more modern sense I guess would do. There’s still a mix out there, but I like and agree that there’s kind of a centralization of this function. It’s certainly in-house and also at law firms too, because you’ve got to have a peer in relationship one way or another, even if the data’s driving everything.
Candice Reed 42:04
Yeah, and that is another good point is that we are relying more on data, not just within the legal profession, but across all domains of our lives. And it is becoming increasingly important to have this data. What I hope we don’t lose is the relationship and the connection from person to person. Brad talked about that and how that may be becoming less important. I think certainly —
Tim Haley 42:38
Well, it’s not less important. It’s just not the only factor, right? It’s one of multiple factors.
Candice Reed 42:40
And it’s evolving. It’s a different relationship now. It’s not just the relationship between the in-house counsel and the outside law firm —
Tim Haley 42:50
Yeah, law firm.
Candice Reed 42:51
… partner. There are multiple people involved in the process now. And so there are more relationships —
Tim Haley 42:58
Candice Reed 42:59
… not less, that are critical when selling and buying legal services.
Tim Haley 43:06
Esther and I remember way back episode four in my silly announcer voice, we talked about that. We talked about the trust transfer and how having the legal ops relationships was an important part of building out a legal ops department even where everything’s data driven.
Candice Reed 43:22
Right, yeah. These people know what they’re doing, and they are so good at it. And I know that I’ve learned a lot from the legal operations professionals that we work with day in and day out. And I think it’s forcing all of us in the legal business to do better and be better.
Tim Haley 43:41
Well, we’ve got a part three to this conversation somewhere off into yonder future where we’re going to talk to a legal ops folks that are in-house to try to flesh out and give everyone a broad view of what the legal ops function is, at least 2021ish. Look forward to that.
Candice Reed 44:01
You mean 2022ish?
Tim Haley 44:02
2020ish. I don’t know. Where the —
Candice Reed 44:05
What year is this?
Tim Haley 44:07
What day is this?
Candice Reed 44:09
That’s not important. That’s not important.
Tim Haley 44:11
It’s not raining today. I know that.
Candice Reed 44:14
I think that legal ops is also going to help a lot of firms and law departments kind of wrangle with the question of what it’s going to look like when we all return to the office or whether we return to the office, and what factors will we be looking at to make the decisions that will need to be made once we are on the other side of the pandemic? Hopefully soon.
Tim Haley 44:45
Hopefully soon. The old equations, the pre pandemic equations on headcount and rent space and legal assistance needs and technology needs, those are out the window. We’ll see what happens.
Candice Reed 44:57
It’s nice to have the support of people who are thinking about not just the current business of the legal department or of the law firm, but also the future too, because practicing law is enough of a job without the additional responsibilities of doing that. Again, I think the evolution of the legal operations function and team is only going to help all of us.
Tim Haley 45:25
Absolutely. Well, Candice, until next time.
Candice Reed 45:27
Have a great week.
Tim Haley 45:32
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