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The natural evolution of legal services

In August, Norton Rose Fulbright launched a new legal operations consulting practice led by former Barclays legal executive Stéphanie Hamon. As she tells The Legal 500’s senior research analyst, Peter Tweedley, Hamon intends the practice to provide management and operational advice to in-house legal teams at major financial institutions and corporations, and explains its likely impact on rival legal businesses


Peter Tweedley: In a growing market of alternative legal service providers and specialist legal technology companies, including consultants, what can a law firm bring to the table?

Stéphanie Hamon: Legal operations consulting is a relatively new field of expertise and there is a limited pool of experienced talent who can deliver this advice. A law firm traditionally has helped advise a general counsel or an in-house legal team on legal risks and opportunities. With a legal operations consulting practice, a law firm can also now help support its in-house clients with wider objectives to act as a business partner. Through our legal operations consulting practice, supported by NRF Transform (our global change and innovation programme), we can provide both.

PT: What work will the consulting practice undertake?

SH: The legal operations consulting practice forms part of NRF Transform and is a natural extension of our existing client advisory capabilities. The practice will offer the following core services:

  • Strategic legal consulting advising in-house legal teams on how they can support the wider objectives of the business, and helping to set priorities and a practical vision for programmes and initiatives that would support this. For example, working with an internal legal team and outside counsel to ensure that the outside counsel deliver the best value for the legal fees paid, or running a panel review.
  • Legal operations advisory advising on management of legal operations functions, including best practice legal project management.
  • Legal operations delivery assisting in the delivery of specific projects or mandates made up of, or including, work likely to be delivered by, or at the request of, a legal operations team. For example, document automation or enhanced delivery of a standard legal mandate.

The initial focus of the legal operations consulting practice will be on our existing clients, particularly those headquartered in the UK and within financial institutions and pharmaceutical sectors. Appropriate opportunities may also arise across our wider client base and there is no strict limitation on the types of clients to which the service is applicable. This will depend on the nature of the client and the type of legal problems and opportunities they are trying to address.

PT: What geographic scope will it have?

SH: In its start-up phase, the practice will focus on pursuing opportunities in the UK. In time, we anticipate that its geographical remit will expand outside the UK. If opportunities come up elsewhere, however, we will be open to pursuing them. We have already, for instance, in the last month witnessed a high level of demand from Australia and Singapore.

PT: Are you targeting other law firms as competitors or other legal operations consultants, such as the Big Four?

SH: Legal operations consulting is a rapidly developing field. A number of the Big Four or other law firms are attempting to move into this space but they tend to focus on point solution aimed at the tactical/operational level. We aim to provide the full vertically integrated service: from management advice to operational delivery. In addition, law firms still benefit from stronger relationships with legal departments than the Big Four or alternative legal services have.

PT: How will this new department impact the firm? Does this come as part of a new growth strategy within the firm?

SH: The rationale for the firm’s new legal operations consulting practice is based on the evolution of the role of in-house legal teams, from advising businesses on issues of legal risk and opportunity to a broader role that encompasses support for their wider commercial objectives.

Driving commercial value and articulating the legal department’s own value to business stakeholders is an increasing focus for in-house teams, as several trends come together:

  • Legal technology has become a real enabler of efficiency and value add;
  • Separate legal operations teams are introducing new disciplines and organisational approaches; and
  • Businesses are increasingly focusing on extracting maximum return for their legal spend.

PT: Has this project always been an ambition of yours?

SH: I have operated in the legal industry for nearly 20 years. I’ve held leadership roles in the client service and business development functions of several global law firms. When I moved in-house to Barclays, where I spent nearly four years, my role was to set and deliver the commercial management strategy for the in-house legal department, which included devising and implementing the commercial optimisation programme. My role was also to set the vision and clear objectives for the law firm panel and revisit the relationship model with external legal counsel.

In the area of legal project management (LPM), I was responsible for the formation of the LPM Consortium, which Barclays set up to foster real collaboration with its top 15 panel firms on LPM issues, including matter budgeting and management and secondments. I led the Barclays team that was named ‘Legal operations team of the year’ at The Legal 500‘s 2019 UK Awards. My mantra has always been based on collaboration.

This new project is a natural evolution, having seen things from both sides of the fence and delivered personally and successfully on initiatives and change along the way.