VQ Forum: Richard Susskind, knowledge management and the shape of things to come for in-house legal – Project Counsel

Last month Project Counsel attended the VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum in Stockholm, an event organised by Ann Björk and Helena Hallgarn of VQ.

The keynote speaker was Richard Susskind, and if you were in attendance you witnessed something of a public clash between two ideas: the need for law firms to change versus the more traditional approach.

A few words about the “Richard Susskind effect” on in-house counsel: While law firms will continue to be important, corporations now have a diverse set of options to reduce legal spend. And those options to reduce legal spend include offshoring a captive in-house legal department, relying on law firms to set up a captive low-cost centre, sourcing from contract lawyers on a project-by-project basis and going direct to new legal services providers that have a global presence.

Corporate law departments have learned to disaggregate into constituent tasks, to consider the most efficient and effect way of sourcing each task.  Technology has allowed them a portfolio of possible sources of legal service.  Multi-sourcing is here. It has been confirmed my McKinsey studies, Gartner studies and the very interesting study of European GCs done by Professor Mari Sako of Saïd Business School in Oxford.  She noted that GCs are actively considering … even employing … a radical move to legal services “production lines” – what Professor Susskind would deem the first stage of the evolution.  It was his “more for less” mantra (challenge?) at the Forum which caused so much of the debate.

But as Susskind has pointed out, the endgame will not be about labor arbitrage.  There will be a continuing uptake of information technology across the profession and … as the history of industry and commerce has told us … it will be the service provider who drives changes, rather than the client.

As Helena Hallgarn VQ tells us, her hope for the Forum was that attendees understood the opportunities open to them and the new possibilities that IT services can bring to the legal market. And that was central to the Forum:  focusing on knowledge management (KM) as a way of delivering the changes and innovation that will help law firms to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic and uncertain business and professional landscape.