We’re about an hour away from Viewabill’s two-hour webinar today on the topic of improving the attorney-client relationship! On Friday, I shared an interview I had done with Casey Flaherty of Kia Motors. I also had the pleasure of speaking with another of the panelists, Dan Baker, who is the Senior Operations Lead for LinkedIn Legal.
Dan’s role at LinkedIn runs the gamut – he described his day as always moving the needle forward on a myriad of projects, from their pro bono program, career leveling, managing contracts, requisitioning, planning/forecasting, event planning, goal setting and tracking, spend reporting, liaising with others, budgeting, knowledge management, engaging firms, and much, much more.
As a lady who wears lots of hats herself, I could absolutely sympathize with Dan’s role…and his need to make things as streamlined and efficient as possible.
Friends in Need
The first session Dan will be a part of today is "Friends in Need," with inside and outside counsel discussing their changing roles, and how the other can help them.
Bearing in mind all Dan had told me about his role with LinkedIn, I asked him to share how outside counsel could help him ease some of the pressures that he faces. For him, the answer was obvious:
Accrual information. Firms could help us by giving more information surrounding spend. That’s the big one, and why I find Viewabill to be so powerful."
That was a natural segue to my next question – Casey Flaherty had said that Viewabill is a "no brainer" and should be ubiquitous. I asked Dan whether he’d seen any pushback from the firms that they work with.
He said that they’ve had "visceral pushback." Dan went out to thirty firms about Viewabill, and 70% of those firms pushed back about it. He said that it’s more than not wanting to use it; people are actually angry, and get very upset about being asked to use it. He was told by one law firm’s general counsel that he had spoken with others in his role at a recent forum, and they’d agreed to band together against using Viewabill.
With such a strong reaction, you can imagine that I was curious to find out why firms were so reticent to use it. Dan said there were three main reasons:
- Security: Dan said that he’d initially been concerned about security as well, but had looked into it himself in depth and it’s a non-issue.
- Cost: Firms don’t want to spend the money on it. Dan says that it’s a nominal fee – less than 1% of the cost of the ebilling system that LinkedIn pays for (for the firms’ benefit).
- Idea: Firms feel that Viewabill or any similar system is an indictment of a lack of transparency, but Dan says that’s not the case at all. They’re asking firms to help their clients help them.
He said that in lieu of fixed fees, companies will budget and forecast for what they know…but firms don’t provide accurate accrual data, so companies budget less. If they can’t sustain the legal spend (which, of course, they can’t), they will then RFP another firm.
Relationships Matter…But not if We Can’t Afford Them
LinkedIn’s message is that "relationships matter." But Dan adds "not if we can’t afford them." That should be a wake-up call for law firms.
He’s quick to add that companies want to pay their law firms, but in order to be able to do this, they need the data to facilitate budgets and forecasts. Viewabill is an administrative tool for people like him who handle downstream activity, and without the data, they’re scrambling every month for data that they’re not getting.
When you’re scrambling monthly for data that you know you *could* be getting but aren’t, it’s easy to see how companies would start to look elsewhere.
That led me to my next question – if a tool like Viewabill is available, and there are firms giving such strong pushback, would they refuse to work with a law firm that wasn’t using Viewabill? Dan was careful in his answer not to speak for all of LinkedIn, but said that the answer to that question from their senior director of litigation is "yes."
For Dan, getting Viewabill implemented was a hurdle internally – he started a grassroots efforts to help his in-house lawyers understand its value. First, the finance folks saw the value, and then the lawyers. The final hurdle is getting outside firms to understand the value.
The ultimate takeaway from my conversation with Dan is this – firms don’t need to be afraid of what Viewabill means. Is it the silver bullet? Not at all, but it’s an important step.
We’ll see what other conversations result from today’s webinar session – I invite you to join me in listening in!