Legal Rising: Saluting the 2018 ACC Value Champions

Steven O'Donnell |

One of my favorite conferences each year is the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Annual Meeting, because of the high quality of the sessions and content. 2018 was no exception.

As a product marketer for corporate legal technology, I am constantly researching the challenges and trends that are driving change within the legal ecosystem, and hearing from so many legal department leaders across industries in one concentrated event consistently provides me with new insights. Within the annual meeting agenda, some of my favorite sessions are the presentations from the ACC Value Champions.

The ACC Value Champions are the winners of the ACC Value Challenge, and represent the best of the best of law department leaders, nominated by their peers and industry for their efforts to increase the value of legal spend management and cost by implementing process improvements and programs for their organizations. The sharing of these stories at ACC events, in turn, propels the entire legal management practice area forwards.

As I said: This year was no exception, as I was able to personally attend and hear stories of innovation and legal service transformation from the Associate General Counsel of AARP, the Head of Litigation at Eaton Corporation and the Vice President & AGC of Products and IP of Pure Storage.

The commonality between all 3 champions? Each was an example of a legal department becoming a strategic partner with the rest of the organization by connecting people and process across the enterprise, driving greater collaboration, while controlling data, resources, and legal spend.

By bringing together people, processes, and information across the whole organization, the ACC Value Champions are able to ensure legal best practices are embedded across a company. That improves legal outcomes, protects company revenue, and raises both the perception and partnership of Legal within their companies.


Doris Gilliam, Associate General Counsel, AARP was the first value champion to present, walking us through their unique process improvement to implement a Train and Trust Initiative for content requests. To set context, AARP did an analysis on the types of content review requests they received and processed over time, classifying them into three easy-to-identify tiers that generally correlated with overall risk and exposure for the company.

Legal Rising AARP LogoThe first tier is of AARP-only internal events where content can be approved by anyone, and the third tier was for broader external events such as contests and sweepstakes that legal will always have to review to protect the company. The second tier is for content related to anything that does not fall into the other two tiers.

To address these requests, individuals from across AARP departments and business units can attend a 2-hour course that helps them understand how to avoid defamation or misrepresentations within content. Upon completion, the individuals become “OGC Certified” and are empowered to classify, and in many instances process, these second-tier requests that previously would have been reviewed by AARP Legal.

Participation is not required, but the certification has actually become something team members want to achieve. Certified team members than participate in quarterly meetings to continue to improve and optimize the process.

The results of the Train and Trust Initiative have been incredible. AARP reduced legal service requests by 36.7 percent, while achieving significant time savings. Clients waited 1,403 fewer business days for content approvals in 2017.  This level of agility and strategic partnership with client business units allows the entire organization to plan and execute events quickly, and is a fantastic model of efficiency allowing legal team members to reallocate their time into more higher value initiatives and work for the company.

Eaton Corporation

The second of the Value Champions was Eaton, represented in the session by their Head of Litigation, Joseph Rodgers. Eaton is a sophisticated large legal department with over 120 members focused across a dozen practice areas. In order to increase strategic alignment with the rest of the organization, Eaton restructured their legal department, adding strategy-focused teams to drive initiatives that were being embraced by the enterprise.

These initiatives include developing Best In Class people, a Lesson Learned group that focused on continuous improvement of legal services, a Client Focus team that seeks out feedback from strategic business partners, and Innovation and Growth team that tackles high-risk operations and evolving issues such as cybersecurity and data protection and privacy. The last group is the Cost Out team that really focused on the selection of sourcing of outside counsel across the department.

These initiatives include developing Best In Class people, a Lesson Learned group that focused on continuous improvement of legal services, a Client Focus team that seeks out feedback from strategic business partners, and Innovation and Growth team that tackles high-risk operations and evolving issues such as cybersecurity and data protection and privacy. The last group is the Cost Out team that really focused on the selection of sourcing of outside counsel across the department.

The company significantly consolidated outside litigation counsel by 80 percent over the past four years and decreased litigation report cycle time by 40 percent. Eaton’s legal team also reduced legal costs by 11 percent year-over-year, representing tremendous value to the company.

At Mitratech, we see many of our clients pursuing similar sourcing programs that not only look at outside counsel cost, but also at the quality of outcomes and interactions between staff counsel and firm. Active evaluations, dashboarding and analytics, and repeating feedback loops are all important parts of these programs that deliver value far beyond what e-Billing can product on its own. By having members of legal leadership on the strategy focus teams, Eaton Legal has made its efforts more transparent and visible to the rest of the organization, and has become a recognized strategic asset for the company.

Pure Storage

The final Value Champion to present was Michael Moore, Vice President and AGC of Products and IP at Pure Storage. The primary innovation here was the automation of contract processing, approvals and signatures. To do this, Pure Storage integrated and customized a number of disparate systems including Contract Express,, DocuSign, and Box.  Additionally they deployed what is commonly used as an IT ticket system, ServiceNow, as a legal services ticketing system for business users submitting contracts requests.

In my previous professional life, I worked in the product and marketing departments of a large company that lacked the systems and focus on resource allocation within legal services.  Requesting a contract or even receiving advice and counsel was a bit of a black hole. 

Typically, we would attempt to use the attorney we had a relationship with, or who had helped us in the past,  regardless of what that attorney’s specialty might be and without any insight into his/her workload.

This led to incredible inefficiency as a contract request bounced between legal team members, who inevitably each needed more information to address it, until it found the right member of the team. As you can imagine, it created considerable delays in processing.

Version control issues, as well as rushed efforts to get contracts signed and approved, were just the norm. All of these challenges add up to  delays in getting contract executed, and when these contracts involved sales orders, the price of delay is revenue recognized. Pure has put a process in place where all contracts are requested and processed in an streamlined process, and has estimated the savings at 3,500 person-hours, equaling approximately $700,000 worth of sales, operations, and Legal staff time.

Having frequently worked on building business cases for legal technology in the past, I believe Pure Storage is underestimating that value, as there is a revenue recognition benefit that is quite significant and may push this value into the millions.  Mitratech has many clients that are putting similar contract automation in place using TAP Workflow Automation. TAP allows legal operations professionals to quickly design and deploy workflows around contract request.

These digitized workflows accept and automatically route requests from business users to legal team members based on any criteria the user stipulates. TAP can then push and open records within the contracts system and use conditional logic for both review and approvals.

TAP also supports e-Signature integration from multiple platforms, and this would take the place of what Pure Storage has done with Service Now. Regardless of the product being used, Pure Storage’s efforts to make contract requests simple, accessible and visible to the entire organization is another great example of Legal innovating to become a strategic partner to the rest of the organization.  

The advent of Legal Rising

Mitratech’s theme at the ACC was “Legal Rising,” which reflects everything we’re observing among both our clients and within the market. Legal departments and Legal Operations teams are increasingly having a rising voice and impact on the overall business results and outcomes that organizations achieve.

We see from industry groups such as ACC and CLOC how Legal Operations teams are redefining benchmarks for process standards and striving to automate or eliminate mundane and repetitive tasks so that lawyers can focus on what’s most important. They’re pushing to understand the cost of providing services ranging from a simple NDA to complex litigation. And as they succeed, Legal has become the rising star of the enterprise: a driver of excellence and innovation focused on reducing cost, improving performance and defending against risk.

By bringing together people, processes, and information across their entire organizations, these legal department innovators are changing the perceptions of legal departments across the entire spectrum of business, both inside their companies and beyond.

My own feeling is that we are still very early on in the Legal Rising movement. As a technology provider for corporate legal, I look forward to what the next several years bring in terms of advancement of this movement. That’s why Mitratech salutes the inspired efforts and incredible results achieved by every one of this year’s ACC Value Champions.

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