For this episode of the Robert Half Legal Report, we’ll be airing a recent conversation with host, Jamy Sullivan and former host Chad Volkert on his new podcast, Protiviti Legal Perspectives. We hope you enjoy!
Today’s Chief Legal Officers are constantly reevaluating their legal ecosystem as the demands on the legal department continue to grow. One area that is gaining special attention in legal department management is legal talent and the important role it plays in accelerating operational efficiencies and effectiveness. In this episode Jamy Sullivan joins Chad Volkert on Protiviti Legal Perspectives podcast to talk about a new legal talent paradigm in legal department optimization.
Special thanks to our
Jamy Sullivan: Hello everyone, and welcome. I’m Jamy Sullivan, Executive Director of the Legal Practice Group for Robert Half and the host of our program. Today, I’m excited to share this episode with you, which is a bit of a different format. A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to be a guest on Protiviti’s Legal Perspectives podcast hosted by Chad Volkert.
In our discussion, we talk about the evolution of the legal profession as well as ways legal executives can position their teams for success in the future. I hope you enjoy the conversation and if you’re interested in hearing more from Chad, please check out Protiviti’s Legal Perspectives podcast series by visiting [email protected]. And now, please enjoy the show.
This is Protiviti Legal Perspectives, where we speak with lawyers and legal experts about key trends, topics, and developments of interest to law firms and corporate legal departments. Here is your host, Chad Volkert, Managing Director and Leader of Legal Consulting Services for Protiviti.
Chad Volkert: Jamy Sullivan is the Executive Director of the Legal Practice at Robert Half, a premier talent solutions firm and the parent company of Protiviti. A global consulting firm. An author and speaker on legal employment and law practice management topics, Jamy began her career with Robert Half in 2002 as an Account Executive in our Columbus, Ohio office. Over the years, she had held various management positions within the company and received recognition for serving on project committees, mentoring internal employees, and her leadership performance. Prior to her employment with Robert Half, Jamy worked as a Law Clerk at an Ohio law firm and for the Ohio State Legislature. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the Ohio State University and a Jurist Doctor from Capitol University Law School, both in Columbus, Ohio.
Jamy, it is fantastic to have you on our podcast today. I appreciated the opportunity to join your podcast with Robert Half and Legal Talk Network, and I know I promised you that I would reciprocate that favor and bring you onto our show to hear about your expertise and what’s happening in the market, so welcome to the program today, Jamy.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, thank you for having me, Chad. It has been too long, so I’m really glad to be back together in a podcast format with you.
Chad Volkert: That’s awesome. Well, you know, let’s jump right into it, maybe share a little bit about your amazing career journey, what attracted you to the legal profession, and give our listeners some of that background.
Jamy Sullivan: For sure. Well, I love to tell the story of actually how the passion first started for legal. I was actually in elementary school, if you believe it or not, and it was a play that was conducted in a courtroom with an actual judge overseeing the courtroom drama, if you will, and that kind of just began. The whole love of like, wow, what is this? What does this mean? It was Goldilocks and the three little bears. I was the prosecutor that was on that play, if you will. And truly, it just kind of evolved from there. Once I got into middle school and then into high school, I was able to join debate and speech and kind of start to marry that love and that passion and once I got into college, then I was also starting to do more of the volunteering piece of it and an organization that’s really near and dear to my heart is CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates.
So being a voice for children, and when that all came together, it was truly then the passion of being a legal representative for an individual, helping an individual. And that’s why I still decided to proceed onto law school, but lo and behold, at the end of law school, I decided to go the nontraditional route and became a legal recruiter at Robert Half. And over my 22 years, I’ve had a really exciting opportunity across the country of the U.S. as well as North America, and now I’m the Executive Director role of the last almost eight years. So it’s really come full circle in how I’ve been able to apply my law degree, but still be a part of the legal profession.
Chad Volkert: Well, that’s fantastic. It’s a little Judge Judy background there, or Perry Mason. So it’s amazing. I always find how people really move into new and exciting careers, and to your point, I know you’re passionate about your community involvement in charities. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so as you can see, I’m in my pink in honor of my mom, and I’ve got my cufflinks on, if everybody can see that as well, and I’ve really respected your community involvement –
–and the lives you’ve changed both professionally within Robert Half and the legal community at large, as well as in your local communities. Maybe talk to us a little bit about how the legal profession has evolved during your extensive career.
Jamy Sullivan: Well, you and I could both really easily discuss this topic because we have both seen the evolution of the legal profession and something that I would just say in general, the last, let’s call it four to five years we’ve seen really tremendous strides from a legal department standpoint and how they become more a part of the organization and more of a business unit. And then we start to think about legal professionals and their skill level and how it’s evolved to have more of a business acumen.
And if I even go back further before I got into the law aspect and even thinking about my journey all the way back to the 1970s through 2010, law school enrollment continued to climb year after year. And so we got to about 2010, and there is a spell of about seven years that enrollment was declining, thus, we weren’t pumping out new graduates and new lawyers so the profession started to take a little bit of a turn in that time span. And now here we are. It started to uptick again the last few years. So that’s been an interesting evolution of those interested in joining the profession and what those cycles have looked like over the last decade, if you will.
We’ve also seen what used to be a less flexible environment, if you will, maybe a little more scrutinized on the time in the office or even overtime expectations, and there’s really been that evolution of leadership focused in on how can they help their staff find a better balance, avoid burnout and really offer flexibility. And that’s one of the changes I think is pretty exciting about how we’ve been able to evolve in the legal field and especially in the clients that we’re interacting with at Robert Half. It’s been a nice change of pace, if you will. One other thing I would add is the legal operations role. That’s very different than what we had seen back in the day and it’s a new function, if you will, that we’ve started to see both with law firms, but more so in the corporate legal department. And that role has been put into place to really help with the complexity of legal work, how to control costs, and then also with the increasing importance of technology, how do we marry that all together in the legal profession, but yet allow lawyers to focus on substantive work. Do what they’re best at, but still allow a legal ops person to really manage that overall and improve the overall efficiencies and the effectiveness of the legal department.
And 20 years ago, we weren’t thinking about it that way. We weren’t thinking about who’s responsible for budget management and making sure that we’re looking at new technologies and how do we improve our processes. So it’s another exciting aspect of the legal profession and how it’s evolved and I think we’re just on the cusp of that role and we’ll continue to see some evolution there as well.
Chad Volkert: Well, I couldn’t agree more, Jamy. I mean, you think about the war on talent and what you’re talking about this evolution. I mean, as a global consulting firm, we continue to be approached by executive leadership, not only within the legal department but across an enterprise, looking for individuals that have multidisciplined backgrounds, that are solution-oriented, and within those legal departments or individuals that may need legal background, they are constantly looking for forward thinking individuals and this legal operations role I think you’re spot on about that is going to continue to evolve and take on more importance or different levels of responsibility based on the organization.
Now, you did mention technology and though you’ve talked about a number of interesting points, given the acceleration of tech and recent market disruptions how have these sorts of uncontrollable forces continued to impact the state of leadership and the war on talent, whether it’s legal or even beyond?
Jamy Sullivan: For sure, one of the things that I would say with way the market has been and responding to those disruptions, legal leadership has really become more of an advisor, a counselor, if you will, to the Board, to the CEO, and we used to say everyone wanted to avoid the legal department because they were the office of no. It’s no longer that and you would —
–think gosh, with market disruptions, maybe it would become even tighter. Well, no. It’s really an integrated piece now. Like I had mentioned earlier, seeing the legal department as part of a business unit to the company and really a strategic partner that is coming in and fostering relationships with various stakeholders across the organization and truly understanding what is the organization patient’s business goals, and how can, from a legal perspective, they help support that? Giving tailored advice, spilling over their knowledge that they have, but just looked at again as a business partner. And yet at the same time, proactively identifying what risks could be at hand because of market disruptors and helping to manage that. And what is the impact of those potential risks to the organization? And that’s the reputation of the company, the finances, their overall operations, and how can they contribute to the success and the growth. And it’s a really nice change that the legal department’s come to be recognized as more of a support. Like I said, not the office of no, but a business partner now.
Chad Volkert: Well, and to your point, we continue to see Jamy, the in-house counsel, whether that’s the CLO, the GC, or members of the team in the same meetings, having discussions with the CIO, the CSO. And before, to your point, you know, even just a few short years ago, they were operating many times in their own silos or independently. Maybe they met once a month. We’re seeing more and more. They’re meeting daily, weekly, to be able to discuss the enterprise related issues around technology, privacy risk, some of the things that you were mentioning.
Jamy Sullivan: Definitely. And we know with the market landscape, everything can continue to change pretty rapidly, especially with the technology advancements that we’re seeing. And again, those market disruptors. But as long as the leaders are agile, quick to pivot their strategies and working together as you mentioned, and meeting often and communicating often, adapting to change is a much smoother road.
Chad Volkert: That’s great. Well, maybe pivoting, but picking up on a similar theme, let’s talk about legal digitization. Legal departments need to mentally shift away from sort of those traditional duties, some of the things you’ve talked about and focus on a different type of delivery and approach. Can you tell me a little bit about how legal professionals today are fostering digital skills or increasing that area of competency for themselves?
Jamy Sullivan: Well, it’s become a permanent shift, because we know it’s not going to go away. The digitization of legal profession and so embracing it, staying competitive, meeting with their clients, and understanding the business needs and how they need to evolve is really top of mind. And not only looking at tech-savvy individuals to bring into your organization, but consistently investing in technology, researching technology, and also how you implement technology is extremely important in this process. We think back to scanning documents, some of the basic stuff, right? Creating e-signatures and the cloud-based storage. I mean, these are all ways that firms and companies are leveraging technology to automate and also optimize. And once somebody can kind of start to wrap their brain around that, I think that that’s how individuals that we’ve at least started to partner with in this space continue to leverage, how can they increase productivity, enhance the client service, improve work life balance for their teams by continuing to move forward with the digitization of the legal field.
Chad Volkert: That’s great. You know, when you think about that transformation that you’re touching on, we’ve got a lot of things going on as we know AI, ChatGPT, we could spend another hour together, you and I, talking about that. But I guess what we’re seeing as a consulting firm and with our clients is the need to talk about how you implement that technology and the type of professional skills you need to impact the efficiency and the processes of the organization. So when you think about talent and are working with a company like Protiviti or law firms or corporate legal departments, what type of talent are you bringing to sort of that whole disruptive space right now?
Jamy Sullivan: We have seen a request all the way from the attorney level, whether they’re already kind of –
— in the midst of understanding the generative AI and the large language learning models, or if they are just forward thinking and able to kind of jump in and be innovative and just think on their feet, right? Because this is taking by storm and we’re not really sure which direction generative AI will continue to go. But we’ve also seen kind of a legal editor mind. We’ve seen paralegals that have come in and worked in that space all the way through case clerks. And typically, it’s kind of testing the AI, if you will, of that company to determine its relevance, if it’s producing the right type of information or not hallucinating. So it’s very interesting just because it’s so new and we’ve had several different types of things that our companies and partners have come to us on and it’s just a hot topic. They’re not quite sure what they need. So we start to educate them on the types of candidates that we have placed or have interacted with generative AI and then we get the wheels turning on how we might be able to support them in their current journey. But it’s evolving. It’s not one size fits all.
Chad Volkert: That’s for sure. Well, I know you probably are waiting for this question, but your reputation precedes yourself as an industry expert. If you had your crystal ball out, Jamy, and you were thinking about all of the changes in the legal landscape, what are your predictions as far as the future of Legal Talent?
Jamy Sullivan: It definitely took the words out of my mouth. I don’t have a crystal ball. I wish that I did, but piggybacking on the AI piece of it. We know leadership will continue to look at prioritizing their hires to those that have advanced technical skills, AI machine learning experience. And what we’ve at least so far seen from surveys is that Legal Talent is actually very optimistic about what AI can bring to the table. In fact, 41% believe that it will have a positive impact on their career. So thus, that kind of trickles down from there that in the legal profession, we’ll see that start to alleviate routine tasks, improve productivity, and free up legal staff to do more strategic projects, more of the substantive work. So that’s one piece that we definitely anticipate seeing. And also, on that, I would keep in mind the retention of talent. And are you motivating your teams? Are you retaining them through, again, balancing from a work life standpoint, avoiding that burnout, but investing in them, like making sure that you’re truly providing them opportunities to upskill, bridge any gaps they might have. And if you show that investment, you’ll really continue to see the return on your investment in your people being more engaged, more available, but also not leaving your organization.
And the last piece of this is competitive compensation. And when I say that it is not just about what is the salary, this is the whole package. And that’s perks, that’s benefits, that’s the community of the company or their legal community involvement, or giving back to their community as you mentioned from breast cancer awareness and what you do, and my love for Casa, they really are engaged with organizations that truly are invested in their community. And I think that that’ll be a continued big piece in the compensation piece and how you can actually hire talent. And we’ve also seen that in our recent salary guide that we released, that it isn’t just about compensation, it’s the whole package. And I don’t see that changing, at least not for the near future of the legal profession.
Chad Volkert: That’s great perspective. I mean, you think about the hard facts of an offer or compensation and then the intangibles that you’re touching on and how to make your organization attractive. I know as you and I have gone out and sat with executive teams of organizations, you share with them three key areas to keep their eye on. And I think today, I want to hear from you again on this podcast what your expert opinion on. There’s a lot of things to focus on, but if you’re looking to position your teams for success in the hiring landscape, what do you do, Jamy?
Jamy Sullivan: Well, number one, when you’re looking at hiring talent, have a plan and understand what are those critical roles that you need to fill or expand that are going to meet your business goals.
In the talent takes the full circle. It’s not just about that spot at that time, but how do they fit into the organization. Then when you’re bringing that team on, maintaining engagement, and I talked a little bit about this, but that is training, that’s investing in your team. It’s also taking the initiative when you assign them a task to bring that back to what is the organization’s mission, how does that task, that project tie into the bigger picture and congratulate them, give them a pat on the back of a job well done and making sure you’re connecting that to the overall department or organization’s performance, and that continues to propel success. The last part of that is also effective outsourcing strategies. So you think about alternative legal service providers, flexible staffing models, consulting services like Protiviti. These are all value-add partners that can provide an effective way to meet deadlines with pending projects, particular initiatives, unexpected uptick in work and avoid that burnout with your current staff. But still successfully again, meet business goals as well as the success of your team.
Chad Volkert: That’s great. That’s great. When you think about outsourcing and other areas to provide alternative legal services for both legal departments as well as law firms, there continues to be this increased emphasis on doing more with less. I’ve always appreciated the partnership that you and I have had, Jamy, and the partnership that we have at Protiviti with our parent company, Robert Half, to provide unique opportunities for general counsel and legal executives. What do you think some of those key points are that really pull through a message of creating efficiencies and opportunities for our clients?
Jamy Sullivan: A trusted advisor. A business partner that can scale a solution for that client’s situation, really listening to them, pulling upon experience the benefits of both consulting and specialized Legal Talent to help that organization reach business goals. And I’ve seen that allow general counsels and legal executives have another integrated partner at the table that’s kind of rubbing the elbows to get the job done by partnering with Protiviti. And I think that gives business owners and legal professionals peace of mind when they have that kind of partnership, especially on a critical matter that they’re facing.
Chad Volkert: That’s awesome. Well, it’s hard to believe, but we’re out of time, Jamy, it’s been a fascinating conversation and long overdue. I want to thank you for your time today. I know how busy you are, and I certainly look forward to having you back in the near future to have another update on Legal Talent. And maybe we need to create our own podcast to highlight some of the great community service that many of our folks and our clients are doing around the country that would be a lot of fun as well.
Jamy Sullivan: I couldn’t agree more, Chad, and thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be with you.
Chad Volkert: That’s great. And for our listeners interested in hearing more from Jamy Sullivan and Legal Talent, you can visit her at roberthalf.com or you can also find her podcast on the Legal Talk Network. If you’d like to learn more about Protiviti and our Legal Perspectives podcast, please visit protiviti.com and protivitiinsights and click on the Legal Podcast series. Jamy, thanks so much. It’s been a fascinating conversation, and I really appreciate, as always, your expertise and advice. I know you’re busy and I know time is precious, but I look forward to having you back for another conversation and not the too distant future in and around Legal Talent and all things as it pertains to the legal industry, and we could also have some fun. Maybe we need a podcast to highlight our clients and what our consultants and employees are doing at a community level to inspire them and to lead community interaction. That would be a lot of fun as well.
Jamy Sullivan: Indeed, it would. I definitely would look forward to that. But thanks for the time today, Chad. It’s been great to be with you.
Chad Volkert: Thanks so much, Jamy, for joining us today, and we look forward to our next podcast.
Female: Thank you for listening today. Find other episodes of Protiviti Legal Perspectives on YouTube and wherever you listen to your podcast content. And to learn more about Protiviti’s legal consulting services, visit protiviti.com.