James Beckett is building a better ruler -- for measuring the value of outside counsel and legal service providers. As CEO of Qualmet, Beckett is working to create a simple process for corporate legal departments to evaluate their legal spend and make sure they’re maximizing business value. The platform lets in-house counsel establish a streamlined, quantitative, cloud-based system for evaluating the performance of legal service providers, allowing for open collaboration around quality and value.
Increasing efficiency, promoting value, and rethinking legal services? That’s something we here at Logikcull can relate to, so we reached out to Beckett to discuss trends in corporate legal departments, key metrics for lawyers of all stripes, and more. A lightly edited version of our conversation follows.
Casey Sullivan, for Logikcull: We’ve seen an increased focus on efficiency and accountability in corporate legal departments in recent years, as businesses attempt to rein in their legal spend. What do you see as Qualmet’s role in this?
James Beckett: Qualmet's role is to enable a shift in focus from efficiency to increasing value. Specifically, we measure performance, and benchmark those measurements against corporate legal departments' definition of value. Qualmet helps corporate legal departments make value quantifiable, so outside counsel can understand how to deliver more -- how to get better.
Logikcull: Relationships and reputation are, traditionally, a leading factor when selecting outside counsel. How can in-house legal departments balance these more qualitative factors with quantitative, bottom-line comparisons?
Beckett: These traditional factors will be tested by a more objective approach. Measurement of specific attributes will determine if reputations are deserved and whether clients get value from the relationships. The very definition of a strong relationship will begin to shift from reputation to measurable value delivery.
"The very definition of a strong relationship will begin to shift from reputation to measurable value delivery."
Logikcull: What are the key metrics that all corporate legal departments, law firms, and legal service providers should be using?
Beckett: As a result of our research and client feedback so far, we have developed metrics that cover the following categories:
Our experience is that most legal performance metrics should be able to fit into one of these six categories. In the event that a corporate legal department has its own unique metrics (often driven by corporate culture or priorities), our platform allows for customization.
Over time, the data itself will refine the metrics and the industry will settle on metrics that are collectively agreed to be critical. Qualmet will enable that process.
Logikcull: Why cloud?
Beckett: In today's environment, whether you are part of a corporate legal department, outside counsel or other legal service provider, you have to be mobile. Our platform is cloud-based to facilitate the needs of the legal industry to be accessible on any device, anywhere and at any time.
Logikcull: It seems like there’s a lot that could be done with the aggregate data that Qualmet gathers -- identifying industry standards and trends, allowing legal departments to measure themselves against their peers, etc. Are there any plans for this, or are things largely siloed to a company-only view?
Beckett: We are absolutely laying the groundwork for leveraging industry usage. The power of data to drive change in our industry will be best harnessed as a collective exercise versus just as a tool for a single company. Transparency of performance and trends across corporate legal departments will accelerate advancements in not just the service delivery model, but new lines of business focused on making the legal industry better.
"The power of data to drive change in our industry will be best harnessed as a collective exercise versus just as a tool for a single company."
Logikcull: How has the response been so far? What reaction from the in-house community, and the legal sphere generally, are you seeing?
Beckett: We have yet to have a corporate legal department or law firm say that measuring performance for benchmarking and improvement is a bad idea. We already have some great customers, all corporate legal departments, and are in active discussions with several very well-known corporations.
Progressive GC’s and Legal Ops leaders who are driving change are the early adopters. I expect more to follow as we get out and engage a larger audience.
There is also a large opportunity for a first-mover from the law firm ranks. We suspect that as the chase for market share gets more difficult, law firms looking for opportunities to differentiate and drive stronger relationships will embrace feedback from their clients.
We have also been approached by other types of legal service providers, legal process outsourcers and consultants, interested in the Qualmet platform for their own insights, or to offer to their clients as a value enabler.
Logikcull: Where do you see Qualmet going in the next few years? How do you see corporate legal departments evolving over that time?
Beckett: Qualmet's immediate focus is on providing corporate legal departments with an outstanding, easy-to-use platform for quantifying and improving performance from their outside counsel. As we grow our customer base, we will be looking at new product enhancements that make performance management an even more powerful tool.
"We expect that law firms will become the driving force behind performance management..."
We expect that law firms will become the driving force behind performance management, so preparing for the needs of law firms will be critical. There will also be a concurrent demand for our platform to expand beyond corporate legal departments and outside counsel.
While we are very focused on these two primary groups in the legal ecosystem, there are others in this same ecosystem that will have an increasing impact on the legal industry. With the continued rise of the Legal Operations function, we see corporate legal departments' level of sophistication in managing department performance rising to new levels.
The mandate from corporate legal departments to drive more value into their organizations will come in many different forms than anything we see today. Technology will continue being the corporate legal department's primary tool, but we also expect that the increased recruitment of multi-talented, and well-rounded business minds from industries other than legal will permeate corporate legal departments. Our job is to make sure we are providing solutions that meet these demands, and hopefully to be one step ahead.
This post was authored by Casey C. Sullivan, Esq., who leads education and awareness efforts at Logikcull. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org