Virtually (Almost) Impossible: A Summary of INHOUSE22

Virtually (Almost) Impossible: A Summary of INHOUSE22

INHOUSE22 ended only a few days ago but the great moments we lived and all the practical guidance we gained will stay in our memories forever. 

(And, in case we forget about anything, we can always go back to the events’ recordings…) 

It was the first-ever (and probably the last) virtual in-house legal festival, and for two days we shared a mix of humor, musical references, surprises, and — most importantly — valuable knowledge on how seasoned leaders at Mastercard, Adobe, CBRE, Compass, Okta, and more, are navigating the looming recession and showing the ROI of their initiatives.

Summarizing the entire event in less than 1,000 words feels like an impossible task — and one that will inevitably leave some of “the good stuff” behind — but here’s our best attempt… 

Amy Sellars on “Doing Less with Less”

In their session on how to show the ROI of legal initiatives in times of increased budgetary scrutiny, legal leaders Amy Sellars of CBRE, and Scott Wandstrat, Deputy GC of Litigation at Kindred at Home, agreed that ruthless prioritization is the key to success when money is tight. 

Sellars also challenged the common idea of doing more with less as a great way to navigate periods of economic compression. She argued that legal teams need to make difficult decisions and pause or postpone certain projects to continue working on the most relevant matters without compromising the quality of their work.

When faced with budget constraints, legal teams need to learn how to ‘do less with less.’ They must figure out what they can stop working on and what they can postpone while keeping high quality standards for the things they keep working on.” - Amy Sellars, Senior Legal Counsel, eDiscovery Operations, at CBRE.

Fun fact: According to Sellars, groundhogs are “little servants of the devil,” just like the concept of “doing less with less...”

Ryan Black on Adjusting Expectations Regarding Legal Talent Retention

During this insightful panel, Yoon Ettinger, Associate General Counsel at Southern Company Gas, and Ryan Black, Chief of Staff at Doordash, traded best practices for attracting, hiring, and motivating top legal talent to build high performing in-house legal teams.

When asked about his approach to retaining great employees beyond the industry standard of two years at tech companies like Doordash, Black argued that rather than focusing on retention strategies, you need to adjust expectations and build a team that can operate in such a changing environment. 

Therefore, when allocating resources, his team is fueling critical projects that align with the business objectives, and they work on developing contingency plans and knowledge-sharing playbooks that prevent those key projects from suffering when the inevitable happens. 

“Fast-growing tech companies should change their expectations regarding talent retention. In most companies, employees stay for less than two years, so you need to create contingency plans that facilitate knowledge sharing and help prevent gaps when changes occur.” - Ryan Black, Chief of Staff at Doordash

Terence Leong on Why and How to Work with Large Law Firms

It’s hard to pick just one great takeaway from the session where three senior litigators from ScionHealth, Crédit Agricole CIB, and Compass shared numerous smart ways to get the most bang for your buck when collaborating with outside counsel. However, Terence Leong’s take on why and how you should work with big law firms got vigorous nods from the other panelists and the audience alike. 

In Leong’s view, when working with a big law firm, you’re not choosing just the firm, but the specific lawyer that will be involved in your case, who will need to have a counterpart in your company that’s well equipped to manage them.

He also argued that it’s possible to make large law firms act in a cost-conscious way by pushing back on any practice that is outside of your outside counsel guidelines. 

“One thing that you are buying with large law firms is someone who brings with them a lot of gravitas. It’s a way of showing how important a particular dispute is.” - Terence Leong, Senior Counsel, Litigation, at Compass.

Anushree Bagrodia on Why You Should Deeply Understand Problems Before Solving Them

Bagrodia’s tip on problem solving could be applied to practically any issue in life. But in her session with Okta’s Senior Director of Legal Operations, Kim Woodward, they focused on how legal ops can solve for the needs of the legal team in a scalable and affordable way. 

In her view, having a solid understanding of a problem is key to determining the best solution for it. If you implement a process or technology without truly knowing what you’re fixing, your initiative is doomed to fail.

As two attorneys who transitioned into legal ops and built programs from the ground up at two very different companies, Bagrodia and Woodward brought their unique perspectives on how to kick off legal ops, as well as the best ways to demonstrate the value of legal ops — even during an economic downturn. 

“Throwing legal technology or money into a problem won’t necessarily solve it. First, you need to understand and showcase what exactly the problem you’re solving for is, why you’re solving it, and who will benefit from that solution.” - Anushree Bagrodia, Senior Managing Counsel at Mastercard

Tammy Thompson on the Key Reasons to Handle Discovery In-House

Our conference is called INHOUSE for a reason. Our mission is to inspire and empower in-house practitioners to work more effectively, get more control over their matters, and become more impactful in their organizations. 

And those goals are perfectly embodied by Tammy Thompson, director of litigation services at Worley. As the only eDiscovery specialist in a legal team of more than 100 employees, Thompson is constantly applying her extensive expertise and innovative spirit toward initiatives to bring down Worley’s outside legal spend.

In the case of eDiscovery, she knew that the right move was to bring the process in-house, an action that saves her legal team over six figures per year. Her reasons to handle discovery internally? More control over data and matters, reduced outside counsel and vendor spend, and more leverage out of their internal eDiscovery expertise. 

Way to go, Tammy!

“I decided to create an in-house eDiscovery department because we have the experience and we’re very cost-effective. But I also wanted to reduce the sources of eDiscovery software that were utilizing our data.” - Tammy Thompson, Director of Litigation Services at Worley.

E.A. Rockett on “Pushing Things to the Edge”

Our panel with Republic’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Max Rich, Bath & Body Works’ Director of Legal Ops, Julie Richer, and the Senior Director of the Office of the General Counsel at Adobe, E.A. Rockett was packed with easy-to-implement tips to optimize department costs and remove blockers so everyone can focus on doing their best work.

When asked about processes that can make a legal team more efficient, Rockett advocated for removing lawyers from the equation when they’re not needed and encouraging them to push things to the edge, which means empowering the teams they support (sales, procurement, etc.) to be more independent and use their legal expertise only when it’s truly necessary.

“Really look at what the lawyers are doing and see which parts are truly lawyering versus just going through some playbook of options, and push those options to the edge when other teams can handle them.” - E.A. Rockett, Senior Director of the Office of the General Counsel at Adobe

Lloyd Johnson on Courageous Leadership

In one of the most impactful sessions of the event, we had the pleasure of being joined by DEI leaders LaTrece Johnson, Head of Legal Ops at Palo Alto Networks, Lloyd Johnson, CEO at Chief Legal Executive, CEO of JusticeBid, for a raw and honest discussion on how legal teams can operationalize their DEI initiatives to prevent them from being cut when there’s increased budget scrutiny. 

And one of the key elements of a successful DEI strategy is having a courageous leader that stands behind these programs and reinforces their importance. When asked how to identify those courageous leaders, Lloyd Johnson provided some examples of the answers that different leaders give when their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is challenged.

“There’s a fundamental question that it’s not too complicated: Are you willing to live by your values? If the things you’ve implemented over the last years are so important to you, then why are you spending less in times of crisis?” - Lloyd Johnson, CEO of Chief Legal Executive

Jo Vong on the Biggest Challenge of Slack Data

Slack eDiscovery is such a big headache for in-house legal teams today that we dedicated an entire session at INHOUSE22 to this topic. We were joined by Kyle Kelly, Staff Technical Program Manager at Coinbase, Albert Lee, Paralegal at Plaid, and Jo Vong, Legal Ops Manager at Plaid, three pioneers in dealing with Slack data in a streamlined and cost-effective way. 

By implementing the right technology and processes, both companies have been able to overcome one of the biggest challenges presented by Slack data, which is, according to Vong, the massive data volumes generated by this platform. 

And the best part? They can now handle Slack data in-house, without the need to rely on external vendors. 

“It was valuable for us to have an eDiscovery solution in-house that allows us to collect, ingest, and cull Slack data without having to get any third party involved.” - Jo Vong, Legal Ops Manager at Plaid

But that wasn’t it. 

Apart from actionable advice from the 22 legal leaders that joined INHOUSE22, we also announced some amazing new features during our Fall Launch Event, such as the ability include Slack attachments in your uploads, audiovisual bulk redactions, automatic PII detection, and many more.

We also released the soon-to-be-awarded documentary “Virtually Impossible: The Story of InHouse,” where we shared a 100% true, no-made-up-at-all account of what it was like to organize the first virtual in-house legal festival. It featured confused alpacas, lost groupies, frustrated musicians, and even sassy cats. It’s hard to describe, you’d better check the event’s recordings and see for yourself…

As is custom, we closed INHOUSE22 with the Culler Awards, where we celebrated those individuals and organizations that are breaking the barriers of eDiscovery and contributing to creating a fairer world. Stay tuned to this blog to learn more about this year’s nominees and winners.

To watch the full event — or just the sessions you’re most interested in — register now to access all the INHOUSE22 content on demand. You can also claim your CLE credit when you watch the recordings of the sessions — just be sure to complete the survey you’ll find next to each of them!

Get access to INHOUSE22.

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