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Dentons launches consultancy for in-house counsel

Firm says it’s not trying to recapture work corporate counsel are bringing in-house.
|Written By Jennifer Brown
Dentons launches consultancy for in-house counsel
Chris Pinnington says the Nextlaw In-House initiative is aimed at ‘getting us back on the same side of the table as in-house counsel and working together to develop business solutions to business challenges.’

Dentons has launched a new consulting service to address the “business pain points” and management issues faced by in-house counsel.

Announced on Nov. 15, Chris Pinnington, Dentons Canada chairman, will be CEO of Nextlaw In-House Solutions. Nextlaw is a separate Dentons organization that works directly with competitors of Dentons.

In a press call, Pinnington said this service “goes beyond traditional legal services to embrace the full spectrum of what is increasingly known as a discipline in the in-house world around legal operations — technology and IT, finance and accounting, even marketing and business development, talent management and risk management as well.”

The services offered will include:

• Procurement and panel processes

• Measuring impact of a legal team

• Risk and compliance measurement

• Crisis management

• Career mentoring

• Diversity

• In-house on demand

“We are clearly in a period of intense disruption in the legal industry — a period of real transformation, innovation and dramatic change,” said Pinnington. “We at Dentons take pride in both being a disrupter and leading that transformation and change and Nextlaw In-house Solutions is a further dimension of that.”

While that disruption has primarily had law firms focused on the implications and pressures for them, Pinnington said perhaps more attention needs to be paid to how it’s all affecting in-house counsel.

“I’m not sure we’ve shone enough light and been as attuned to it as we believe we are and what that disruption means for in-house counsel,” he said. “In-house increasingly represent the voice of the client, not just the in-house department as a procurer of legal services but the C-suite and the board.”

Pinnington said the initiative is also aimed at “getting us back on the same side of the table as in-house counsel and working together to develop business solutions to business challenges.”

“Increasingly, the challenge for in-house counsel can be summarized as the quest to define, measure and ultimately deliver value to the organization. It’s a conversation moving beyond simply a matter of cost but demonstrating inherent value of the in-house legal function to overall business success.”

One of the technology components of the offering is the use of billing and matter management software called Apperio.

The cost of the Nextlaw service will be determined through an individualized fee structure or subscription fee for technology services.

“The one thing we are not focused on or embracing is any notion of the hourly rate or billable hour. This is all about value,” said Pinnington. “We need to shift the conversation from cost to value. Our mission is to work in partnership with in-house counsel to deliver that value. It won’t be one size fits all, but through collaboration around identifying the problem and solution and creating a value-based approach to a fee structure. It could run the gamut of a fixed fee, success fee or subscription fee; with the technology it could be a variation around licensing fees.”

Dentons will also leverage the knowledge of more than 50 former general counsel it has working in its offices around the world, including David Allgood, former GC at RBC, who joined Dentons as senior counsel in 2015 and is part of the team working on Nextlaw Solutions.

“He’s a good example of a seasoned general counsel who brings a wealth of experience on what has worked and what has not worked in terms of managing external counsel relationships,” says Pinnington.

Dentons will provide the services to all clients from global multi-nationals to startups who may not have an internal legal function.

Dentons Global CEO Elliott Portnoy acknowledged that many of Dentons’ competitors have former general counsel in their law firms, but he insists what’s distinct about Nextlaw In-House Solutions is that the firm is trying to “nurture and restore” the relationship between in-house counsel and the law firm at a time when it’s become “increasingly complicated, adversarial and frayed.”

Portnoy said it’s not an effort to try and capture or compete for work that clients are bringing in-house themselves or that they are using consulting firms or legal process outsourcers or others to do it.

“This is something very different — it’s more about the relationship we have with in-house counsel who tell us their greatest stresses aren’t quality of legal counsel firms provide, it’s their own internal challenges of developing procurement programs, the pressure they’re getting to look at pricing with more data analytics and legal process management,” he said.

Dentons global chairman Joe Andrew said providing high-quality legal work has become table stakes in serving clients; now firms need to look more broadly.

“In-house counsel have their own clients, the business leaders, boards and CEOs of their firm — they themselves are facing all sorts of challenges, not just in how to manage law firms but in managing their clients and identifying issues around the globe as companies become more sophisticated and go into new markets as well,” he said.

“The goal of this consultancy is to take that combination of people who have been in the same position of in-house counsel and combine the experience with those who have expertise in areas contemporary in-house counsel have to deal with,” he said.


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