Featured Guest
Jeff Carr

Mr. Jeffrey W. Carr, Esq., has been Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Univar Inc. since...

Your Host
Daniel Linna

Daniel W. Linna Jr. has a joint appointment at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and McCormick School of Engineering...

Episode Notes

Even though they may be a small part of large corporations, legal departments play a vital role in supporting business objectives and guarding the company’s reputation. With many years of experience in general counsel roles, Jeff Carr offers a wealth of knowledge on best practices for modern legal departments. Jeff joins Law Technology Now host Dan Linna to discuss strategies for building innovative systems to support the cultural, financial, and service delivery goals of your legal department.

Jeffrey Carr recently retired from his role as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Univar Inc.

Special thanks to our sponsors, Headnote.

Transcript

Law Technology Now

How to Run a Modern Legal Department: Avoiding Irrelevance and Pursuing Reinvention

12/11/2019

 

Daniel Linna: Hello everyone. This is Dan Linna. Thank you for joining us for this episode of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. You’re about to hear an episode that I recorded a few weeks ago with Jeff Carr, a Senior Vice-President and the General Counsel at Univar Solutions.

 

Shortly after we recorded, Jeff announced that he was stepping down as general counsel and would officially retire from Univar early next year.

 

Congratulations on your retirement Jeff, and thank you again for spending time with us.

 

With that, let’s take you to this episode of Law Technology Now with Jeff Carr.

 

[Music]

 

Daniel Linna: Hello. This is Dan Linna. Welcome to Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. My guest today is Jeff Carr. Jeff is the Senior Vice-President and the General Counsel at Univar Solutions.

 

Jeff is highly regarded as a visionary general counsel and his work led to his inclusion in the inaugural class of Legal Rebels in 2009.

 

Jeff, welcome to the show.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Thanks Dan, it’s so good to be here.

 

Well before we jump in Jeff, we want to take just a minute to thank our sponsor Headnote. Headnote helps lawyers get paid faster with their compliant e-payments and accounts receivables automation platform. To learn how to get paid quicker and more efficiently, visit them at headnote.com. That’s headnote.com.

 

Jeff, I am really pleased to have you here today and I want to jump into specifics about how to run a modern legal department and what you expect as a customer from law firms, but first I’d like to take a step back and look at the broader legal industry.

 

And I’ve heard you say before that the legal industry risks irrelevance and that chafes attorneys that hear things like that but can you describe this risk?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Sure. Well it kind of comes from a quote from US Army General Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and he said if you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.

 

What I see happening and my career has been really long. I mean I’m really old and I started practicing law back in ’81 and what I’ve seen is, is an increasing tendency and focus on providing legal services in a bespoke fashion, an insistence on doing it. Everything has to be bespoke, everything is a unique item and what I see happening is the customers really cannot afford the services that the industry is now geared to deliver.

 

And so what’s happening is customers are going naked and when I say customers, I don’t mean individuals, I mean small and mid-sized companies as much as individuals and to me that’s the true crisis in access to justice, ATJ. It’s — can we provide better services to people that don’t have adequate access, of course we can, but there are programs to do that. They need to be expanded.

 

But the true access to justice problem is the delivery system today does not provide the services customers need in the way they need them, that’s actionable and affordable.

 

What that means then is that customers will either go naked or find another way and so our professions insistence on doing work the way we’ve done work for the last several hundred years, albeit sometimes more efficiently, but still in this sort of bespoke artisan type fashion, means that there’s this race to irrelevance and you can see it today where economies are growing yet the legal service portion of the economy is basically staying static.

 

There’s demand for those services out there and it’s what I think of as the latent unmet demand. There’s a huge amount of demand but it’s not accessible because it’s overpriced and it’s not delivered in a fashion that is usable for most of the people.

 

That’s why I think that we’re on this race to irrelevance. If we don’t fix it, the customers will and we’re not going to like what comes out of that, so it’s incumbent upon us if we really care about the profession, it’s incumbent upon us to change what we do, how we do it, how we price it and how we deliver it, and it really comes down to productization of what we’re trying to do.

 

Daniel Linna: Well, how do we get more people in the legal industry kind of behind this broader mission? I mean I first saw you speak at ReInvent Law in New York and it blew me away the way you were talking about it. It just made me feel more certain that some of the things at the time I was working with Dan Katz and Renee Knake at Michigan State and I just thought wow, this is absolutely on the right path and things have changed but it hasn’t gone nearly as fast as I’d like.

 

But I mean, so you are one of the leaders in the industry in this space, how do we — I mean from a leader’s perspective, how might we describe the mission and vision in a way that’s maybe more compelling to help bring people along? I mean how do you see that?

 

(00:04:58)

 

Jeffrey Carr: Well, let me describe the mission of my law department and our vision. Our vision is quite simply every legal problem can be prevented. That’s the vision statement for my department.

 

Our mission is legal optimized, problems prevented, and it is taking a series of professionals, legal professionals, other professionals forming into a team to help the company achieve its objectives while maintaining the ethical compass, removing obstacles, creative disequilibrium and really reinventing what we do.

 

It’s redefining legal services. That is incredibly simple to say and devilishly difficult to do and I mean I’ve been working in this space for 40 years almost and at least 25 of it talking about how we reinvent the profession. Every day, it’s a journey for me. So it’s hard, it’s really hard.

 

Daniel Linna: How do you think we can get more people on board but then generally, so think about — I mean it’s hard enough inside of your legal department and well, I think one of the challenges of course I think in law school, we aren’t really training people to think about to lead and manage and run a meeting which plenty of people dismiss as just common sense, but I mean how can we expand what you’ve learned in leading people inside of companies and legal departments to think about the industry generally?

 

Jeffrey Carr: It’s incredibly simple. We have to change what we do, we have to change how we do it. We have to change how we price it. We have to change how we train people, how we promote people, how we reward people, how people think and how they work.

 

So it’s incredibly simple. In other words, we have to change everything, and that’s ridiculous. I mean that journey is too much for anybody to bite off. So I talk about change as you have to first establish where you want to go, what is your end point.

 

And for me, the end point has to be customer service and it’s not customer service the way we as lawyers and the legal profession define it, it’s not excellence in law, it’s not interesting legal questions, it’s what is the problem that the customer needs solving and if we start focusing on that, if we start focusing on what does the customer actually need, it will change how we do things.

 

The only way we can get there with that is a vision in place, then you have to sit there and take stock of okay, where are we, where are we today, because you can’t get to what I’m talking about tomorrow. It’s just too big of a chasm to get over.

 

So I think about it as a three-part process and we call it stretch, step, leap. Stretch is your first action and it’s knowing where you are today, knowing where you want to go, we’re going to change slightly. Get out of our comfort zone slightly, stretch away from where we are to where we want to go.

 

As you get more comfortable with that, then you literally step away from it and you start doing things differently. When you get more comfortable with that, then it’s time to take the leap, and the leap is that, that step towards a vision that is too hard to take at the front end. If you think about it that way all of the time and if everything that you do is going towards that vision of what you want to do and how you want to do it, then it’s a journey that’s possible.

 

If you think about it in terms of I need to be there tomorrow you can’t get there, the chasm is just too broad. It’s too deep. There’s too much resistance and particularly in law. I mean we are introverted people, we’re risk-averse and we’re built on precedent and so, if you take all of those things together we’re highly resistant to change as a tribe, and we have to break down some of that tribal sense of who we are to fit into the broader society as a whole, that’s hard.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well and then related to all this is the question of incentives and frequently people say well inside the law firm, wait you want me to become more efficient, why, how is that good for me?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Absolutely. Because it all comes down to what’s in it for me eventually and unless you change the business model of the firm, unless you change the way associates are evaluated, unless you change how partners are compensated or non equity partners are compensated, you can’t make the change to this customer focused item. You have a fundamental disconnect between what the customer wants and what the business of law is designed to produce and it’s a misalignment of interests.

 

I mean if I remember a long, long time ago, I drew a very simple graph which talked about okay what — from a customer’s perspective what do I want? It’s a simple X-Y graph and I’m willing to pay more dollars for fewer hours.

 

Now, if you look at the law firm model, they want more money for more hours. Now there’s a point of intersection and that it’s just classic economics and that’s a market clearing price, what we have to work together is moving that point of intersection to the left creating that area of savings and sharing it between both the customer and the provider.

 

(00:09:56)

 

But there’s a fundamental misalignment of interests, we have to recognize that. The only way to actually reconcile and change that alignment is recognize that the billing systems that we’ve created actually encourage counterproductive behavior.

 

You have to recognize that the compensation systems within firms. I mean any firm that has a billable hour target for their associates, by definition those people are going to over work because they have to, that’s what they get paid to do. You have to get back to this idea. I don’t remember who said it. I think it might have been Mark Twain who said, if you pay for service by the hour you don’t buy service, you buy hours.

 

There’s not a customer on the face of the earth that wants to buy hours. They want to buy results. They don’t want activity, they want results. They don’t want inputs, they want outputs and yet our whole system is geared to providing activity and inputs and so it’s just fundamentally screwed up.

 

So how do you change that? I mean you change it from the customer side.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: And the customers have to vote I like to say, you have to vote with your fees instead of with your feet, you vote with your feet as well, you walk away from those providers that don’t provide services the way you want in the way that you want them.

 

But part of the problem is the buyers today by and large are also part of the tribe. So getting those tribal members the buy-side to think differently, like the true customer’s side, that’s a challenge in and of itself.

 

So the change management process is massive, absolutely massive, but you do it, one law department at a time, one customer at a time, one convert at a time. I mean you can’t find a general counsel today who will stand up and say, I think paying for legal services by the hour is a good thing. You cannot find somebody that will say that publicly. They still do it but they will not admit to it publicly.

 

So we are making change. We are having an impact not as fast as I would like, not as fast as you would like Dan, but things are different now than they were in say 2008 when the ACC Value Challenge came about and that sort of first kicked off things.

 

I think that was where, where you first started having more of a public discussion about this misalignment between the supply side and the buy side. That’s changing, not as fast as I’d like but it’ll continue to change.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well there’s so many follow ups questions I want to ask.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Sorry.

 

Daniel Linna: No, that’s great, that’s great. One of the things I think you do a really nice job of is you’ve created these frameworks to describe all of these ideas and one of them that I think is helpful, well, so much of this discussion gets wrapped up in the idea that we’re just doing things more efficiently or faster like and it doesn’t realize that well we also have a quality problem in the legal industry.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: We could get much better outcomes and I think when you talk about the way you see kind of like old law, new law, like can you just tell us like that paradigm and then how you see that providing greater value to customers?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Sure and hats off to George Beaton for first talking about this I think in terms of old law and new law. I’ve taken that a little different path and I say, and I’d say Jordan Furlong too first came up with some of these ideas. But old law is not in the business of solving legal problems. They’re in the business of billing hours to solve legal problems.

 

What some people call new law also not in the business of solving legal problems, they’re in the business of charging lower-cost hours to solve legal problems.

 

What I call elevated law is actually in the business of solving legal problems effectively and efficiently and then what I describe is the fourth way, the four-step which I describe is next law, it’s about preventing problems from arising in the first place. It’s addressing the why do we do things as opposed to the what, who and how we do things and that’s where I think we need to be going, is this whole idea of prevention.

 

When you think about it, unless you’re a patent troll or unless you’re a law firm, there really isn’t a company on the face of the earth that wants litigation or wants legal problem. Yet our entire industry is geared towards helping people with legal problems.

 

So I sort of describe this as we can be really, really good at handling litigation. We can be really, really good at handling e-discovery. We should actually be better at not having e-discovery and the best way to not have e-discovery is to not have litigation and the best way to not have litigation is to not have disputes, and the best way to not have disputes is a company to respect people, honor your contracts, provide safe products and safe services, basically honor your commitments.

 

If you do that, then you reduce the demand side, but we have an industry that is focused on handling problems, the really enlightened folks are focused on handling problems efficiently and effectively.

 

(00:15:06)

 

And then the folks that I think of is really new thinkers are thinking about why do we have the problem in the first place.

 

So the analogy I use sometimes I talk and I talk about I’m not a lawyer, I’m a lifeguard, and that’s meaningful to me because I met my wife 46 years ago as a lifeguard. She was 16 and I was 17, I was a lifeguard.

 

When think back on those days, I think I went three years I was as a lifeguard. I went in the water three times to get people out over three years and that’s exciting and that’s sort of heroism and all that kind of stuff. But I blew my whistle a lot to stop people from engaging in dangerous behavior.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: That’s a higher and better use of a lifeguard blowing the whistle is better than going in the water always. And yet whether you’re a firefighter, whether you’re a lifeguard, whether you’re a lawyer, whether you’re a fighter pilot, it doesn’t matter, any of these kinds of professions that are sort of de facto focused on heroism you have to have an event in order to be a hero.

 

We don’t have a really good way to recognize people that do their jobs well every single day and problems don’t result from that. And that’s — we haven’t figured out how as a society, how to actually reward that kind of behavior. We need to do that in a lot of different walks of life not just law, medicine is the same thing. We spend, especially in this country, we spend billions of dollars on heroic efforts. We don’t spend as much money on preventative care.

 

We kind of went down that path for a little while but we haven’t been really successful at it, because frankly, doctors don’t like to do it. I mean a doctor would rather be a hero and save a life, a lawyer would rather win a lawsuit, get a great deal, save the day then as opposed to helping people avoid a problem.

 

Firefighters are always sexier than insurance inspectors, always.

 

Daniel Linna: Well I had on my show a couple weeks ago Helena Haapio and George Siedel and they talked where they wrote a book together on Proactive Law, so the preventative side, but then also how we as lawyers are understanding the law, understanding the business objectives, how we can add value that way in another area where lawyers are not really seizing the opportunities I think the way they could.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: So on the ground, how are you really implementing this in the companies that you you’ve worked on this prevention, because I haven’t seen, I mean George and Helena gave a couple of examples but and I think the Academy by the way can help on some of this and come up with how do we measure this, how do we actually measure the value of avoiding litigation things like that?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Metrics are hard. I mean we’ve struggled with finding a way to truly measure this. I haven’t come up with anything better than cost of legal as a percentage of revenue or even better as a percentage of free net income, free cash flow.

 

When you think about it, legal is a cost of doing business at some level and if you can reduce that cost, you add value to the company.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: It’s very hard to avoid — to measure avoided costs, you can do a benchmarking data perhaps, but we don’t really have good measurements of that.

 

At best right now what we have are trailing metrics which would be, if you had a caseload have you reduced your caseload. If your normal caseload year-over-year is X number of disputes, this year is it smaller?

 

If you have so many EEOC claims, next year is it’s smaller. So you can use trending data but that’s — I haven’t figured out a really good way to show a forward-looking metrics as opposed to trailing metrics. Quality is another area. I mean how many warranty claims do you have. If you’ve got a fewer of those and these are all business metrics and not legal metrics, that’s the weird thing about them.

 

I think you can measure, well you measure a lot of stuff, but to me at the end of the day, it comes down to what is the total cost of legal as a percentage of sales on some level.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well I mean there’s so much interesting work to be done there and it certainly seems that the hypothesis there’s a lot of value to be unlocked there is a good one.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: So where I want to go next, I guess I’d like to just ask is kind of thinking about you. You were at, you were the General Counsel at FMC Technologies from 2001 to 2014.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: And then you retired and you wanted to — I mean you — I’ve heard you describe that that you explain to people that you were racing cars during your retirement when they asked what you were doing, but then you decided to come back as the General Counsel at Univar and I’d like to just say a little bit about why you came back but how did you — I mean this must have been a really interesting opportunity to actually — I think a lot of us when you’re in the job working and you think about all these things you want to do but this opportunity to say, okay I’m going to go back and what is your 90 day plan kind of look like as far as –

 

Jeffrey Carr: When I got to Univar?

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah.

 

(00:19:58)

 

Jeffrey Carr: Oh it’s a great question. I mean I went back. I never intended to be a GC again. I’ve done that for 14 years or so. I didn’t need to do that again. I didn’t need to punch a ticket and say, well, I really want to do that again.

 

I went back because it was a unique set of circumstances. The company had — its CEO had gone to another company, its GC had followed that CEO to that company, and so they had lost their GC, most of their lawyers were located on the west coast as opposed to here in Chicago where headquarters were. They were looking for somebody that could come in and stabilize the department.

 

When they first approached me, I told them no. I mean I’m old. You need somebody who’s probably in their 40s, maybe early 50s, who’s got a bigger, a longer flight path that they can give you more time, because I’m not willing to give you more than a couple of years.

 

But what happened was it was an interesting confluence of events. It was a good department, good people doing good work, but there was no real system associated with the way the work was being done. Because of the dynamics of the company, it offered me an opportunity to take everything I’d done with my team at FMC Technologies and we were considered one of the highest performing legal teams around punched way above our weight, a small team relatively big company, few resources, great performance over a decade or so of time.

 

What was that a flash in the pan was that just an interesting set of coincidences or was it replicable? What Univar Solutions offered me was the ability to come in and take everything we’ve done at FMC Technologies, modify it somewhat, apply it in this new context and could we build a law department in a couple of years where it had taken me 14, 10 or so in the old place.

 

So that was a really interesting personal challenge for me. The CEO definitely wanted a sustainable legal team. He knew that it couldn’t be built around me. It had to be built around a group of people.

 

So it was an interesting opportunity for me and that’s why I went back. The 90 day plan what was kind of funny, I mean I took this job with almost no due diligence, and I show up on the first day and said okay, let’s pull everybody together, let’s have a chat.

 

And my admin looked at me and said well, you’re going to have to go to Redmond, Washington for that. I said, why I’m here in Downers Grove, Illinois. Yeah but all your lawyers are out in Redmond and I said what?

 

And it turned out that the company had moved its headquarters. They had gone public in 2015 and as part of going public, they changed the corporate headquarters. They decided from a cost standpoint not to move certain functions. And so the lawyers, the general counsel was here in Illinois, the lawyers were all up in Washington.

 

Well, you can build a virtual office that’s possible, you can’t actually do a change management program virtually, that’s got to have day-to-day interaction to do that.

 

So after I figured out where people were, my 90-day plan was to try to figure out okay, what systems are we going to use and I was really pleased to know the company had, they had a matter management system in place. Great, it happened to be the matter management system that I used before.

 

Fantastic. Well, I pretty quickly figured out that they actually weren’t using the matter management system very much.

 

So the 90-day plan was really okay, let’s start using what we’ve got, let’s start thinking about how we’re going to start transitioning and moving people over here and let’s get a plan in place that was really more focused on breaking down some of the silos we had, breaking down some of the individual lawyer as essentially attorney-client relationship within the company, instead having a business-to-business relationship, legal team to the business functions and the business unit.

 

So that was — the first 90 days was more about finding out okay who is everybody, where are they, what do they do. I had a pretty good concept of where you want it to be, then it became, let’s start laying out what the vision is.

 

Then after that the process, it all comes down to people. Systems are one thing, but it really comes, because this is not rocket science. This is the delivery of legal services. This is not hard but it is difficult, and it’s difficult because people actually don’t want to do it in a different way.

 

And so, the most important thing that that leaders have to do I believe is making sure you have the right people on the bus. After you’ve defined where that bus is going, making sure that everybody that’s on the bus agrees with that vision and never letting anybody on the bus that doesn’t agree with that vision.

 

(00:24:56)

 

They can be great lawyers, great legal professionals, great economists, great whatever it is that you need, but if they don’t actually share that vision of where you’re going to go and how are you going to do the work, then for their good, for the good of the organization, you really can’t take them on that journey with you, because you can’t fundamentally change people, you just can’t.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: You can train people, you can give them experience, you can give them more credentials, you actually can’t change their culture.

 

So the first thing you’ve got to do is make sure the people — you have to define your culture and then you have to make sure that the people that are with you are actually all part of that culture.

 

Daniel Linna: Well that’s another problem in law firms of course.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Correct.

 

Daniel Linna: Because you can’t be like Jack Welch and kind of — and not really, I mean that you probably won’t last too long running the law firm if you take that approach.

 

Jeffrey Carr: You know but that would be an interesting challenge. It would be really fun to run a law firm if you actually could run the law firm, but that means breaking down this individual lawyer concept of that everybody is a partner and everybody has an equal say and everybody has a book of business, and you take your book of business wherever you want.

 

It’s one of the reasons it sounds more derogatory than it is, but I describe law firms today as hotels for lawyers. There’s nothing bad about being in the hotel business, lots of people make lots of money by being in the hotel business, but make no mistake. Law firms that are hotels are not in the business of providing legal services. They’re in the business of providing space and infrastructure for people that provide legal services and those people that provide those services they will go from firm to firm if the mint on the pillow is nicer at the firm across the street.

 

And that’s the dynamic we’re in right now. That’s why you see so much lateral movement, it’s because the individual lawyers have a book of business, take that book of business where they can get a better deal for whatever — however you want to define that, whether it’s money or other capabilities or adjacencies, but that’s why this — you see such churn today I believe in the legal profession, the outside legal professional, the law firm side of the house.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Going back just a second, thinking about how will we see more change on the customer side, more general counsels who are pushing for these things, think about if you’re the CEO and how would you tell a CEO or how would you consent to that you should hire a GC like Jeff Carr and I mean — what is the value proposition for that CEO? I mean how do you make the best case for that this matters?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Yeah. What a great question, because it’s a really hard question. I always, I thought for a long time that the CEOs actually would get this and buy this and get on board, but when you really come down to it, they’re looking for their legal function to do good work and just basically stay out of trouble and to keep the company out of the news.

 

The CEO’s job is to sell stock and to lead the company. Legal is such a small part that part of the GC’s job is to be the consigliere to the CEO and to the Board, and that’s a really, really important role.

 

But a huge part of the role is managing and running a team that just helps the business meet its business objectives. The less the CEO hears about legal, the better.

 

And so at the end of the day, they’re not real interested in somebody like me coming in and saying, hey, you got a really good GC, but they actually could be doing a lot better work in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. So then you say, the person I should link up with it’s a CFO, because it’s all about money, and the CFOs will get really excited about this until what they realize is that the percentage of spend represented by legal is miniscule.

 

I mean the difference between the best performing legal team and the worst-performing legal team in the U.S. is probably half a percentage point of revenue.

 

So there’s just not enough money. I mean its millions of dollars but it’s not enough money in the aggregate to really move the needle. Where we really make a difference is on reputation. It’s the intangible and that’s what’s hard to measure, but it’s kind of like an ethical problem. It’s like a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act problem, a reputation of a company takes years eons to build and seconds to destroy.

 

And so part of the function I think of the GC’s office is to be the custodian of that reputation and that culture and that ethical compass, and the more what would resonate to me, at least as a CEO is if you said, okay, right now you have 400 pieces of litigation. Every single piece of litigation was because of a human error somewhere.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Wouldn’t it be better if we had none? Why don’t we look at litigation the same way as we look at safety? Why do we live in a culture that says, we want a zero incident culture for safety? And yet somehow we accept litigation and disputes as a normal part of business. Wouldn’t it be better if we could stop that?

 

(00:30:00)

 

If we could be a better corporate citizen? If we could be a better supplier or customer to the people that we interact with and to prevent problems as opposed to manage them.

 

But there are not that many people buying that story right now.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well, it seems like we need to do a better job than measuring the value.

 

Jeffrey Carr: I think that’s right.

 

Daniel Linna: And just to relate back to your lifeguard story for example, I mean when I hear stories about what happened at Facebook for example, like I asked where the heck are the lawyers, right, and of course, we know where the lawyers are frequently, they are in their silo.

 

Jeffrey Carr: They are in their bubble.

 

Daniel Linna: They’re separated from everything else and you talk to the technologists and they say, well, yeah, we’re not going to talk to the lawyers, they just tell us, no, you can’t do these things, right. And it seems to me though you also need the CEO and others in the company on board if they’re going to help change that culture that the lawyers are actually part of the product development cycle for example.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right. I mean what’s funny is that, this is not a hard job, but it’s a difficult job, okay. It’s a — I describe it as being a parent to teenagers or a high school teacher. You are surrounded by people that know that they are smarter than you and you’re in their way of their god-given right to do whatever it is they want to do.

 

And so being a GC comes down at least on the counseling side, it comes down to three questions. Before people have done something, the business people have done something, our question is, tell me why that’s a good idea. And sometimes it’s not, but as long as the objective is legitimate, we can find a way to get there.

 

After they have done something the question is, what the hell were you thinking, and often they weren’t, but then you have a teachable moment and you can then prevent that problem from happening in the future.

 

But the third question is the most interesting one, and you use that in either situation one or situation two, either pre or post, and it’s a follow-up question. And it’s when they’ve given you something that is really kind of daft. You say to them, huh, what was the idea that lost out to that one.

 

And what was — it’s like the movie Argo, it is where the guy says, so let me get this straight. This is the best of all our worst ideas, right, and that’s kind of what you’re asking.

 

If this is the best thing you could come up with, what did you reject, because it’s — why don’t we think about this differently, think about it from a prevention standpoint, think about it from what are the logical outcomes that come from this course of action, and is that what we want as a company?

 

I mean I’m not in the morality business but I am in the ethics business. And it kind of comes down to as a company what do we stand for, what do we want to be known for, what do we want our reputation would be, and let’s make sure we’re values based and principles based, and make sure that we’re actually focused on that as a service provider to our customer.

 

So that’s why I say we’re sort of the adult supervision in the room, and that’s — that can be a really, really rewarding job.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well, so I want to shift our focus to thinking about the outside law firms and what they need do to keep customers like you happy. But before we do that, we’re going to take a quick break so we can hear a message from our sponsor and then we’ll continue our interview with Jeff Carr, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Univar Solutions.

 

[Music]

 

Advertiser: Hey law firms, getting paid is fantastic, but dealing with accounts receivable is such a pain, what-if there was a better way? Enter Headnote, an industry-leading compliant e-payments and AR automation system. Their unique blend of features cuts through the noise and helps you get paid 70% faster. Skip the paper checks, spreadsheets and awkward calls due to overdue clients. Get paid faster with less effort. Visit headnote.com for more information.

 

[Music]

 

Daniel Linna: And we’re back. Thank you for joining us. We’re with Jeff Carr, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Univar Solutions.

 

Jeff, we’ve been talking a lot about running the legal department inside of the company, I want to shift gears a little bit here to talking about the service you expect from outside law firms and can you just kind of tell us I mean from your perspective what do progressive general counsels like you look for when you’re hiring outside lawyers today?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Well, I try to look for firms that aren’t hotels, firms that actually have a firm culture that talks about a service delivery platform. There’s an interesting little vocal thing that I listened for a verbal thing I listen for, I never used the word client. I use the word customer all the time.

 

If I start hearing that from a law firm or from a service provider, I know that they’re either parroting back to me and they’re just syncopatic or they actually get this, because if you start thinking about customer instead of client, you immediately project yourself into would I pay for this, am I actually getting, am I delivering to somebody something that I would want to buy, and you start projecting yourself as the customer.

 

That’s what I look for in my service providers. I want actionable advice, when I’m really flippant I talk about how at least inside my business customers they want what I call one-handed lawyers.

 

(00:35:07)

 

They don’t, they won’t amputee, I don’t mean to be disrespectful to people with disabilities, but they don’t want lawyers that say on the one hand this on the other hand that. They want people that actually can give them actionable advice. I’m looking for the same thing from my law firms.

 

Most of the time I don’t need to know how smart you are, because I frankly, I’m not interested in interesting questions of law. I’ve hired you whether you’re inside or outside because I know you’re an expert in the area, so you don’t need to convince me about how smart you are, you just need to give me an answer or tell me there isn’t an answer and this is what I would recommend.

 

Either of those things are fine, but it really comes down to being practical and actionable.

 

Daniel Linna: Well, I know that you created the Alliance Counsel Engagement System, ACES, and so that’s and I know you’re a big fan of alternative legal fees. Can you just tell us about ACES?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Sure. At first, we never used the word alternative, because in my world it’s not alternative, it’s the way we work. So we talk about value based fees or performance focused fees or engagements.

 

The ACES system is devilishly simple. It actually just says, and it takes that graph that I talked about at the first half of this, that X-Y axis, where there’s an intersection point and it recognizes that point of intersection.

 

What it really does is it forces me as the customer and my folks as the customer to actually define what we want, both in terms of objective and in terms of service level expectations. And then with that in place, it requires us to give feedback to the service provider about how they’re doing, or how are they doing on meeting those requirements as we’ve defined them.

 

And it’s very, very simple, it works with any kind of fee engagement, whether it’s hourly, fixed fee, bands, doesn’t make any difference. It simply says, you bill us, we’re going to pay you 80 cents on the dollar, we’re going to hold back 20, and then we’re periodically going to give you a report card and that report card has several factors on it.

 

My first iteration had five factors, it now has three, and those three factors are effectiveness, efficiency, and experience, and I don’t mean your experience, I mean my experience with you. They are equally weighted and based on how you do on that Report Card, you get between zero and 200% of the amount withheld.

 

Why did we pick 20% as a withholding, the 20% is enough of a traditional law firm’s profit margin, firm to pay attention? Why did we say zero to 200%? It’s because we’re not looking for a discount, we’re actually looking to reward exemplary behavior.

 

The interesting thing about the Report Card system is and it’s something I didn’t realize at the front end of this, I hold my lawyers accountable for their budgets, because I can’t run every matter in the department. So I can’t meet my expectations to be on budget unless all my lawyers meet theirs.

 

Most evaluation systems and ours is a five-point scale, it’s from a one to five, most evaluation systems end up with bimodal evaluations. They’re either everybody’s a one or everybody’s a five, and that’s simply incorrect, and it arises when there are no consequences from doing evaluations.

 

What I didn’t realize when we set up this system is if either I or one of my lawyers gives somebody above a three in their Report Card and three means meets requirements. If they give above a three, they’re going to pay more than the bill. So if on average they got a four, they’re going to pay 100%, 110% of the invoice. If they gave somebody a five, then they’re going to pay 120% of the invoice.

 

So for them to meet their budgetary expectations and be on budget, they can only do one of two things, either reduce spend elsewhere. They can pay everybody 20% more but the aggregate amount of spend has to be 20% less to do so or they can think about the world as saying well, if I give you 10% more, I have to take 10% from somebody else.

 

What that did was it immediately forced my lawyers first to do the evaluations and then secondly, to give realistic evaluations. And it’s a devilishly simple program, it really is. All it really does is it creates the context for the conversation of our performance.

 

Because what I found when I went in-house many, many years ago was we don’t fire people. We improve people if we can. We put them on a performance improve. If they’re not doing what we want them to do internally in a company, we put them on a performance plan. If they don’t respond to that, they eventually get terminated, but if they do respond, we want to keep them.

 

(00:39:59)

 

Why do we do that? We do that because it’s far more expensive to get rid of people and onboard new people than it is to change your behavior, change your performance.

 

In law land as in-house counsel, we do exactly the opposite. We simply don’t tell our law firm providers what we expect and we don’t tell them how they’re doing and then we just fire them. But we don’t fire them expressly, we just don’t call them the second time.

 

Now, sometimes that’s not because we’re gutless, it’s because we’re introverts, and the hardest conversation to have is a conversation about performance. It’s a very difficult conversation. If you build a system that is constantly providing feedback, you have to understand always that and you know this feedback is never about the past, it’s always about the future because you can’t change the past.

 

All you can do is learn from it and change your behavior going forward, either your behavior, your performance or whatever, that’s actually what we want. We want to tell people you did this really, really well, you can improve on this and if we’re going to have a long-term relationship, I need you to improve on this.

 

And if you build a system that starts giving a context and an ability to do that feedback in something other than hey, how am I doing, you’re doing great. That’s not particularly good feedback, you know what I mean.

 

It’s how am I doing? How am I doing in terms of reporting to you? Well, you know actually I don’t need to know what you did on your summer vacation, I don’t need these long reports. I just need you to tell me the things that actually matter in this matter. Oh thank you very much, I can change my behavior going forward.

 

And so it’s just a structure to have a conversation that’s a difficult conversation and then it’s a linking of compensation to that structure. When we first built it, we were not looking for a way to pay less that would be a result of better performance.

 

We would actually pay more. I mean if people were actually outperforming, we pay 20% more than what they were billing us. But in the aggregate that money would go down. As people are doing better service meaning actually giving us what we need instead of what we think we need, our overall costs would go down and that’s exactly what happened at FMC Technologies over the course of a decade.

 

Our legal spend declined by 33% where the company tripled in size. That’s just astounding. I mean it’s just absolutely astounding, and yet we paid our outside legal providers on average a 107% of invoice. So how do you make that math work?

 

And the only way you make that math work is we’re buying less service, but it’s being provided to us on a better quality level, quality the way we define it and we define it as effectiveness, efficiency and great customer experience. It’s not — I wrote this beautiful memo that was incredibly important and it’s the first memo about I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do about X. I frankly don’t care about that.

 

I care about helping the company meet its business objectives.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well, I think it’s one of the things that’s really interesting to hear you talk about this is encouraging in-house lawyers to take responsibility for this, for their role in improving service delivery. It doesn’t get discussed a lot. I think probably because a lot of the people that are part of discussion, if I think I was back at the law firm I wouldn’t really be bringing it up that gee, Jeff, you really should help drive this conversation and make sure this feedback happens so we can do a better job of serving you.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right. Well, but it should. I mean if you actually take a step back and think about it, it should, everybody should always want to be doing better.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: What can I do to improve my performance? So those conversations should be happening all the time.

 

When the law firms send out these questionnaires or these people that do feedback loops, that’s partially effective, but I mean the question that I always hated from a law firm was what keeps you up at night. Nothing keeps me up at night and somebody somewhere told them that that’s how they could be — they could be more engaged with us.

 

They’re never going to understand our business the way we do. What keeps me up at night is service providers that don’t get what we need them to do and they instead continue to do things the way that they’ve always done things, and I look at the world very simply.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: I’m the head of a law firm, that law firm just happens to be the Univar Solutions law firm, whether you are a lawyer, a paralegal, a non legal professional, whether you are inside or outside, there’s absolutely no difference to me. You’re on my team and I expect if you’re on my team, I expect you to follow the rules of the team and we run our department by a set of what I call principles, rules and tools.

 

We believe X so we always do Y and this is the tool that we do it, and we put that in context for you. We believe disputes always get worse they don’t get better, so we believe in resolving matters as quickly as possible.

 

(00:45:04)

 

Fighting the ones that we need to win on a principle basis but on the others is just an economic transaction. So we believe that as a principle. Therefore, our rule is we do early case assessments. Our particular tool is we use decision trees. I have to use a decision tree, you could use something else.

 

You do have to do an early case assessment. I don’t care if it’s on a cocktail napkin or but I need — I need that rigor of having that discussion about what do we believe is going to happen in this particular case. In a contract, when we’re looking at a contract, you say okay, we believe most contracts are business documents not legal documents.

 

So the real question is can ops use what’s purchasing bought and can ops make or provide what’s sales sold. It’s really not rocket science and it’s not a legal question, but we can make sure that that conversation occurs and so the principle is we believe it’s a business document.

 

The rule is we make sure the business can actually perform, they understand their obligation and can perform their obligations. Our tool in our particular case is what we call a contract summary form that goes through this thing. So we sort of do everything by this very mechanized process.

 

A lot of lawyers don’t like that quite frankly, because they’re artisans and don’t know, I know what I’m doing, don’t tell me how to do it. I’m not going to interfere with the way you exercise judgment. I am going to interfere with the way you provide service and if you don’t want to do that, that’s fine, that’s perfectly okay, but you’re not going to work on this team.

 

And again, it doesn’t matter if you’re an outside lawyer, if you’re an inside lawyer, if you’re an outside non-legal professional or an inside non-legal professional, I mean I expect people to believe in the principles that we have established are important. I expect them to then engage in the behavior or follow the rules and to use the tools that we’ve identified.

 

Tools can change all the time but you don’t just get — well, I like to use a pen instead of a pencil, okay fine, but if we’ve said we want our early case assessments done in a decision tree format then do a decision tree until we change to a different kind of tool.

 

Daniel Linna: What about from the — I mean when I was in the law firm and trying to think about how to develop a book of business, one of the ways, I mean I saw some of these changes in the marketplace with new law companies, alternative legal service providers, offshoring and with the rise of legal ops and legal organizations, it kind of seemed like well the client now or the customer is taking on the role of being the general contractor, but why in a perfect world, why wouldn’t the lawyer in the law firm be the general contractor?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Yeah.

 

Daniel Linna: And I’d be the one who really understands what you need and I know all the best experts, you’d have to trust me, I’d have to demonstrate that I bring in the right experts at the right time.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Sure. I think that’s a perfect model and I think the lawyer in the law firm can be the general contractor. The reason it doesn’t work is because the business model of the law firm.

 

Now, if you flip that around and in our world I don’t care about UTBMS codes, I don’t care about activity-based billing, I don’t care about bill review, I don’t care about hourly rates. I literally don’t care about any of those things. What I care about is the budget.

 

What did we say this matter was going to cost, and whether it’s a fixed price fee arrangement or not, it still has a budget. I expect you as the lawyer whoever I’ve engaged to manage within that budget, I expect I’m not going to tell you as the outside lawyer, I don’t want to micromanage your business, I’m not going to tell you what vendors to use, I’m not going to tell you do this but not that and that’s why I don’t believe in these 15-page billing guidelines.

 

Instead I’m going to use an economic model to change your behavior and that economic model is to reward you for efficiency, and to unleash your creative juices as the service provider as the general contractor to make those best decisions to make or buy technology versus arms and legs to provide that service in the most cost effective manner possible.

 

I want you to think about not your top-line revenue, I want you to think about your profit margin, and I want to help you and reward you for focusing on that.

 

Daniel Linna: So, it seems like some of the things that we’re talking about here come down to well service design, process improvement, project management and I think there’s still a bit of a debate in the industry. I mean I go to a lot of these conferences and I hear everyone say, especially on the customer side that project management is important, yet it’s not taught in very many law schools, and even when you look at the law firms, there’s very few places that provide any sort of training on it and I think it’s a pretty light touch for the most part.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: I mean do you think that’s something we should see more of?

 

(00:49:55)

 

Jeffrey Carr: It’s critical, it’s absolutely critical and it manifests itself in a couple of ways. I mean at its base, project management is really pretty simple. It’s simply who’s going to do what, when, that’s it. It’s not rocket science, but it is hard, it is hard to map out to do a process map and say okay, this needs to be done and then that needs to be done and then that needs to be done.

 

And that’s all really project management is just taking a defined process and applying it in for a specific customer output as opposed to a generalized output and I realize I talk like a manufacturer here because I’ve worked in a manufacturing company for a long time.

 

But when you think about it, when I’m engaging legal services, I want a specific output, that output if it’s in litigation, I want a particular result. If it’s in a deal, I want a transaction to be completed, to be closed. If it’s a contract I want the contract to be done. If it’s a new employee benefit plan, there’s an output. To produce that output takes a series of steps and each one of those steps is a process and each one of those processes should be the same.

 

I mean if I want an employee benefit plan and Company B wants an employee benefit plan, the plans may differ in terms of some of the content but not much. So, this all can be productized. I mean and nobody likes to hear this, but probably 85-90% of the work that a law department needs is exactly the same as another company, which is exactly the same as another company.

 

So I believe that there is a core of legal services that every company needs and then there start to be nodes associated with okay, are you public or private, nodes associated by business, but every company needs contracting, every company needs some affiliated administration, every company needs HR services, labor and employment services, every company needs brand assistance.

 

I mean they may or may not need broader IP, they may or may not need environmental, they may or may not need compliance with banking regulations, but there are clusters of companies that need exactly the same thing. All of that can be systematized.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: The only thing that changes, is what I call are controlling inputs. So like a contract review process for Company A and Company B can be exactly the same. The only difference would be for my company, my playbook on indemnification says, this is red, amber, green. My playbook for dispute resolution says this is our preferred kind of dispute resolution.

 

Company B may have different preferences in those things, but the process by which you assess it can and should be precisely the same. All of these services can be productized. We don’t think about it that way, but that’s actually the future of law in my view.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah, well along those same lines, what do you think about the way data-driven law practice and predictive technologies and artificial intelligence, what kind of impact are you seeing them have on legal services delivery today?

 

Jeffrey Carr: So I know I’m talking to somebody who really understands this area and I don’t. Well one of the best things I’ve heard about AI is AI is what you call everything you don’t understand and once you understand, it is just tech.

 

I think there’s a lot of discussion about these things and there’s great promise. One of the challenges I think in legal is that the huge amount of unstructured data makes application of AI difficult. First stages in AI I think are most helpful in things like e-discovery what we’ve already seen in using machine learning and machine based technology to figure out what’s responsive and what’s not responsive.

 

In contracts, I think it’s in triage, it’s in identifying, if I’ve defined for my company these are the things that are red, amber and green, it’s at triage to decide okay, what needs further review and then who needs to review it. In thinking about the actual answers to those questions that probably still needs human beings.

 

Dispute resolution is an area I think where AI has great promise where you can say okay you know, this particular dispute, it has these kinds of parameters, here are the logical outcomes, why do we have to go through all the folderol to get there.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: So I think there’s great promise, but I don’t think it’s a silver bullet, and I think people are thinking about it as a silver bullet. It’s kind of this — what some people call the shiny new object syndrome. I think it’s a tool and it’s a useful tool and it will grow in importance over time, but you actually have to get the foundation right first.

 

Daniel Linna: Right yeah.

 

(00:54:56)

 

Jeffrey Carr: And the foundation means processification. I mean I don’t think you can actually apply AI effectively in most of these areas unless you have a foundation of how you’re going to do the work, and I don’t think there’s enough work being done in that area right now.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I mean coming — I mean some of the research has been done on whether you can automate legal work is basically of the idea that well, lots of legal work is unstructured therefore will never be automated. So you miss a step there.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: What if we structure?

 

Jeffrey Carr: What if we structure? Right, and that’s – the profession doesn’t really want to do that and it’s partially because of the business model because we get paid for activity and partially because I mean let’s face it, most of us became lawyers because we didn’t want to be accountants or bankers or doctors or whatever it was.

 

We’re not very quantitative, most of us, and we truly believe in this artisan type myth. When you start talking about processification, when you start talking about application of machine learning, you take away a piece of us and so, it goes back to one of your first questions Dan, which is what do we need to change.

 

What we actually need to change is what is our role and I think we need to change from the role of being a doer being a what I call an operator to being a designer and a process owner. So take contract review, it’s one of my favorite areas. It’s actually a huge misapplication of resources to have lawyers do ground up contract review.

 

We are expensive and frankly we don’t know anything about operations and we don’t know anything about finance. So why are we reviewing those things? I mean I tell people all the time, I don’t care how long the contract is, I can review the contract in a half-hour, because I’m only looking for the things that matter to me.

 

I mean I’m looking at indemnification, dispute resolution, successors and assigns, I mean there are a dozen areas and I’m looking at. I don’t. I literally don’t care about the other stuff, other people should do that, it’s within their risk areas not in my risk area, but that requires a leap of faith that other people will do their jobs.

 

And in many companies, law departments are sort of the last bastion of protection of the entity, they take that very seriously and so they said, well, I have to do it because nobody else will.

 

Well, let’s build a system where they do, because it’s not rocket science. I mean you can say in the finance area, I care about these 10 things. In the ops area, I care about these 20 things. In the legal, I care about these 12 things and then you have okay, here’s what our position is and then you say okay to deviate from that, this contract either complies or doesn’t. This provision either complies or doesn’t.

 

Then the only question becomes who’s the decision-maker to accept a waiver of that particular condition and that’s what you build. You build the system that grants deviations as opposed to the system that structures every contract as if it’s a snowflake.

 

You do the same thing with litigation. I mean every case is different, but you know what, every case is actually the same.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Within a group, every employment case is the same, every contract case is the same. The facts may be a little different, but you know at its core, the similarities are greater than the differences, and I know nobody wants to hear that, but wouldn’t we be happier as lawyers.

 

I mean how many lawyers talk about the dissatisfaction in the practice? Well, it’s because they’re doing mind-numbingly boring work. If instead we were systems owners and we designed processes that other people operate it and then we constantly tweak those processes to make them better and then the only ones that we operated were the ones that actually require a lawyer’s judgment because that’s the only thing that actually distinguishes a lawyer from — I hate the phrase non-lawyer, but in this context like for other people is our judgment.

 

It’s not knowledge, it’s not really, it might be experience because judgment comes from experience but really it’s just the application of judgment and if we could free the profession from doing all of this stuff that they shouldn’t do, but it creates activity and activity creates billable hours and billable hours creates revenue and that’s how I get paid or that’s how I get promoted.

 

If we could change all of that, you’d have a happier profession, you’d have more satisfied customers, lower costs for everybody and a better profit margin for the firm.

 

So for me, it’s a no-brainer, but I think we were talking before about what I call a Confucian saying that to me, the solution of the problem is simple, but those with the power to solve the problem find it quite difficult, because it actually requires – it requires us to blow up the system that we have, we can’t tweak it, it has to be changed fundamentally.

 

We have to change our roles, we have to change how we do things and that’s a huge challenge.

 

(01:00:02)

 

Daniel Linna: How do we start doing that?

 

Jeffrey Carr: Well, I’m a believer, this is not a popular belief that first we have to start it in law schools but then secondly, I think actually we have to — I don’t know that law firms can fix themselves. I don’t know that brown field can be reclaimed. I’m more of a believer in green field where you build a system that is based upon this different vision of how you provide services.

 

It’s built on processification of everything you do and then it requires people that are working within that enterprise to actually believe in every aspect of it. So I’m more of a proponent for green field than for brown field. The alternative legal service provider community, I don’t think they should be called alternative, just I don’t think there are alternative fees, I don’t think there are alternative legal service providers.

 

The question for them is are they in the labor arbitrage business or are they truly in changing the way that work is done, that’s the next frontier I think. It’s not — the third wave of change is about how you do the work and it’s not just application of lean and it’s not just application of Six Sigma or anything like that.

 

It actually is changing the roles of the individuals and in this owner/operator concept I think. We’ll see if that can happen. I don’t know, I really don’t know. It’s hard. I mean I’ve been trying to do this in two departments and it’s hard. There’s no doubt about it.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well we’re coming close to the end of our time, but I want — there’s one more thing I really wanted to get your thoughts on and so there’s been discussion about changing legal services and lawyer regulation, in fact, there’s a fair amount happening now in California, Utah, Arizona.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: There’s a task force here that in Chicago about the rules in Illinois and I think one of the criticisms, we’re not talking to customers enough about this, it’s not just corporate customers but also individuals in society as well.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Right.

 

Daniel Linna: I mean we know kind of where the lawyers generally stand on this, but from a customer’s perspective, I mean what do you think about that, is that heading the right direction?

 

Jeffrey Carr: It’s headed in the right direction but I have to tell you I don’t really care about it too much, and again, not a popular viewpoint, because my view is I’m a licensed lawyer. So I can use whoever I want, they don’t — I can use lawyers, I can use other people because I’m ultimately responsible as a head of the department for the provisional legal services.

 

So for me, it’s largely a non-issue, just me personally in my role as the General Counsel of Univar Solutions, that’s my own individual perspective. My more professional perspective is it’s a debate we have to have, it’s a change that has to occur but it’s actually the whether or not the change is going to occur is that question is asked unanswered.

 

Because if the profession doesn’t — this goes back to your very first question, if the profession refuses to answer the question correctly which means people other than the lawyers can provide legal services, then the customers will find a way. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park, life finds a way.

 

The demand is still there and we as customers will find alternatives if the legal system does not provide them to us and what we will do is then we will increasingly relegate the legal service industry to a smaller and smaller part of our work and whether that means we go to the big four as they start nibbling in areas or do we go to other non law firms or do we build things ourselves.

 

I mean there are a lot of companies like take dispute resolution, alternative dispute resolution is just as expensive as going to court.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Carr: It’s actually far better for me to sit down with the counterparty and say, can we work this out business to business. So it’s bypassing the system completely and I think you’ll see more of that unless we find a way to be relevant.

 

Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well, so the last question I want to ask you then is and we both know plenty of lawyers in law firms or folks in law schools who are maybe I’m a little on the naive side that I want to really encourage the lawyers who are doing the work out there. So what would be your message that kind of just people and as students, my students do sometimes they hear mixed messages about what’s really needed in the industry.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Focus on the customer, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. I mean if that’s your North Star, you will always answer the question the right way. If you think about it from the standpoint of I’m the customer would I pay for what I’m about to do, would what I’m about to do be useful to me if I were the customer.

 

If you look at it from that perspective, you’ll change how you do stuff. Push the envelope on this. I mean just what happens to so many people unfortunately is and I was one of these people. I mean you do all of the right things if you’re successful in law school you do all of the right things and you end up going to big law and big law is again not in the business of solving legal problems.

 

(00:01:06)

 

So really think about what role do you want to have in the legal system? Don’t accept the legal system the way it is today, think about what role you want to have in all of the things that it could be tomorrow, and move towards that. Unlike everybody else I’m sure you get the same thing.

 

My son wants to go to law school should they go to law school? My answer to them is I’d be happy to talk to your son, I’d be happy to talk to your friend, but they have to go read Susskind’s ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’ first. That I’ll have to agree with that, I just want them to understand what is the world look like in a few years from now, because then I can have a meaningful conversation with them.

 

The concept of the noble lawyer is great, the Atticus Finch is a great concept. We’re a business, we’re profession, we’re really a business masquerading as a profession. We hold a position of public trust and that’s very important, but we have to earn that public trust, and we have to earn that public trust by actually serving our customers instead of serving the guild.

 

We’ve lost sight of that I think as a profession. We need to find our North Star and get back to that. And so that whole debate about access to justice, alternative legal service providers, it’s far more about protecting the guild than it is about actually servicing the customer.

 

Daniel Linna: That’s a great call to action. Thanks Jeff for your leadership and for joining us today.

 

Jeffrey Carr: Thank you, Dan.

 

Daniel Linna: This has been another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. Please take a minute to subscribe and rate us in Apple podcasts and Google podcasts. You can find me on Twitter @DanLinna. Please follow me, re-tweet links this episode and join the legal innovation and technology discussion online.

 

And join us next time for another edition of Law Technology Now. I’m Dan Linna, signing off.

 

[Music]

 

Outro: If you would like more information about what you have heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Subscribe via iTunes and RSS. Find us on Twitter and Facebook or download our free Legal Talk Network app in Google Play and iTunes.

 

The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.

 

[Music]

Brought to You by
Newsletter

Notify me when there’s a new episode!

Episode Details
Published: December 11, 2019
Podcast: Law Technology Now
Category: Best Legal Practices
Podcast
Law Technology Now
Law Technology Now

Law Technology Now features key players, in the legal technology community, discussing the top trends and developments in the legal technology world.

Listen & Subscribe
Recent Episodes
01/08/20
Richard Susskind – How Technology Will Change Justice

Ralph Baxter sits down with Professor Richard Susskind OBE to discuss Richard’s latest book, Online Courts and the Future of Justice.

12/18/19
Welcoming New Host Dan Rodriguez

Law Technology Now host Dan Linna welcomes his new co-host Dan Rodriguez for a conversation about legal education and the role of innovation for...

12/11/19
How to Run a Modern Legal Department: Avoiding Irrelevance and Pursuing Reinvention

Jeff Carr shares insights on best practices in modern legal departments.

12/04/19
ABA Projects and Pursuits: A Conversation with President Judy Perry Martinez

Judy Perry Martinez shares an overview of current projects and activities at the ABA.

11/18/19
Exploring the Benefits and Impacts of Online Dispute Resolution

Shannon Salter joins Dan to discuss Online Dispute Resolution and the broader implications of rethinking how claims get resolved.

11/05/19
Innovations in the Future of Law Practice with Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson offers insights from his career journey and discusses the drivers behind the development of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice....