What Are the 4 Forces Impacting Legal Ops? Greg Kaple Knows…
He’s Senior Director, Legal Operations Programs at Kaiser Permanente, with a long track record in driving tech adoption. Thanks to that, Greg Kaple has some pointed insights and candid observations to share.
And share he did, during an online session with Colin McCarthy of Legal Operators. With a background as extensive as his, and Greg’s familiarity with the legal tech for Legal Ops landscape? It made for a frank and far-ranging dialogue.
What’s driving change? In healthcare, it’s no surprise…
As Greg explains, “Well, we got this little virus running around the globe called COVID and as a healthcare organization, that’s probably the number one thing driving us.”
The pandemic has increased legal workloads because it’s transformed the complexion of healthcare in so many ways that have legal and regulatory dimensions: “As a result of COVID, we’ve had to stand up brand new hospitals from scratch in order to handle surge. We’ve had to change the way we’re doing business from not just social distancing and math, but increasing telehealth work.”
What are the four primary forces that are pushing change upon the legal industry, in his view?
The doing-more-with-less challenge
There’s almost universal pressure on corporate legal departments to demonstrate greater efficiency, handle bigger workloads, and, if they can manage it? Improve outcomes. At his own company, Greg has seen it at work: reduced or limited headcounts, demands for greater productivity, and mandated reductions in outside counsel spend.
“And of course,” he points out, “while all these reductions in head count and spend are being done, there’s the previously mentioned increase in demand and volume. And so do more with less is definitely the theme. I think at some point, though, there’s a physics equation that says there’s only so much you could do with what you have. And so part of the question that we’re faced with is what do we do, and what do we not do, and how do we be selective about what gets the best impact for the enterprise?”
New market entrants and ALSPs
As Colin McCarthy puts it, “Over the past few years, we’ve seen in the use of alternative legal service providers grow in certain high volume or lower complexity areas, such as invoice review and portions of contract management. In 2020, we had already seen the big four professional service networks such as Deloitte anyway into the market with managed services offerings for the legal industry.”
The question to Greg, then: Was Kaiser using ALSPs? “We don’t use the most alternative of alternative service providers,” Greg says, but that has much to do with “putting our internal house in order” before reaching out to new service providers. To attorneys who may decry the use of ALSPs because there’s less of the one-to-one, “personal” attention of the traditional attorney-client relationship, Greg had a pithy answer: “I hire AT&T to provide my cell phone service. I don’t hire a pony express to run my message across the country.” More corporate legal departments appreciate the fact they’re being supported by provider firms with entire teams, not just individuals.
Technology is no panacea, from Greg’s POV. “When you automate a bad process, you scale all the problems it creates exponentially. And here’s the challenge: We don’t have enough lawyers or operations people trained or collaborating on how to build good process.”
Putting people first is the secret to getting technology to deliver on its promise, in his mind. A technology like workflow automation is “certainly not the silver bullet to solve the problem” instigated by poorly designed processes and people lacking in the training or motivation to make improvements.
The changes wrought by the pandemic may be permanent, and reach deeper than you might expect. “Operations has gone to a virtual service center model,” Greg says in the session. “We accelerated the ISO model of service desk support for users in design and engineering for solutions. And now we’re in a virtual service desk. So you know, whether we had it in Malaysia, we had it in Nebraska or we got it in Martinez, California, it doesn’t matter as much anymore. So everybody has to be a professional service center, a supplier, not an old-fashioned manager or secretary.”
One boon of this pivot is that there’s more flexibility and possibility when it comes to “where to create centers of work, how to do the work internally or externally,” he says. Five years from now, he expects, Legal Operations will resemble a “giant legal operations center, clearinghouses that are shared between enterprises the same way financial services take their non-strategic risk and offload it to industry clearinghouses.” Providers like Kaiser and others will want to move beyond an approach that demands they each “figure out how to tool up and respond to the same kind of government investigation…let’s offload that to a shared risk entity that is powered by Legal Ops.”