In-house Bar Recognizes 12 Companies as 2016 ACC Value Champions

To Yield Time and Cost Savings, More Corporate Law Departments Shift High-Value Work In-House, Empower Business Units with Legal Knowledge

Posted: May 11, 2016

WASHINGTON (May 11, 2016) — In-house counsel are partnering with diverse business units to empower access to legal information through proprietary, self-service technology platforms and using the resulting time savings to focus law department energy on the most high-value work, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global legal association representing more than 40,000 members in 85 countries announced today.

ACC recognized 12 law department and law department/law firm collaborations, including companies based in Greece, the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, as 2016 ACC Value Champions. Their strategic approaches increased client satisfaction, enhanced the value of legal service spending, reduced turnaround times and costs, and improved results. The ACC Value Champions program is part of the ACC Value Challenge, which promotes adoption of management practices that drive value — controlling spending and yielding better outcomes.

Among this year's honorees, many took proactive approaches to the hallmark areas of corporate legal department work, including discovery, contracting and procurement, employment law and patent protection. Teams reviewed past results and roadblocks to success in order to create simplified but holistic processes. The winning law departments identified where they could best add value to the business, including reducing litigation, creating global legal staff rotation programs, and building proprietary technology platforms to allow access to legal answers and metrics in real time.

"This year's ACC Value Champions demonstrate the positive impact a strong law department has on the business and its bottom line," said Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO of ACC. "The law departments we honored created solutions to business-wide problems, initiated strong partnerships with other departments, and offered new services to improve internal client service."

By establishing thorough training for HR, sales, and other business units, many of this year's ACC Value Champions enabled their internal clients to locate answers to common legal dilemmas, and used technology to facilitate the process. With the time savings, the corporate law departments were able to take on additional high-value, strategic projects, from handling multibillion-dollar transactions entirely in-house in one instance, to assuming new risk management projects in another.

Cutting internal and external legal costs was also a theme among this year's ACC Value Champions, as some companies kept high-volume work in-house, but moved it to lower cost jurisdictions. Several of this year's Value Champions were recognized for their collaborations with their outside counsel. In these instances, they often consolidated work with a single law firm under alternative fee arrangements (AFAs), including fixed fees and success fees.

Across the board, the ACC Value Champions impacted their corporate culture, whether by improving law department employee engagement through strategic work, implementing a culture of safety in order to reduce litigation or supporting the bottom line of the business by rapidly adjusting to market demands and increasing risk tolerance.

ACC recognizes the following 2016 ACC Value Champions, selected by a panel of in-house counsel judges from a competitive pool of 57 nominees:

  • Aegean Motorway SA (Larissa, Greece) — Solved a business-wide problem at this highway operating company: government protest-inspired toll violations by up to 40 percent of drivers, causing a €7 million ($8.05 million) annual loss. Lawyers built a nimble team by adding and training non-legal staff to assist with department work and creating templates and a database to track and notify toll violators. Efforts saved more than €2.5 ($2.9) million in outside legal costs, while legal-led publicity and stringent follow-up dropped violation rates to 0.7 percent and recouped funds, as revenue lost due to toll infractions dropped 42 percent.
  • Aon plc (London) — Deployed a Law Department Strategic Improvement Project with four elements. First, the company's in-house and firm lawyers attended joint LEAN/Six Sigma training to map processes and identify areas of improvement. The team also partnered with the procurement department to standardize the RFP process, transferring 40 percent of all U.S. legal matters to flat fee arrangements. Contracts work remained in-house but moved to India and Poland, reducing costs by 50 percent and turnaround time by 66 percent. A global rotation program helped to cut costs while boosting law department employee engagement.
  • Axalta Coating Systems with Hunton & Williams LLP (Philadelphia and Richmond, Va.) — Seized an opportunity to start anew after Axalta became independent from DuPont. The law department, with help from Hunton & Williams, built templates and playbooks to overhaul procurement, a crucial part of the business. Lawyers provided training on using the playbooks; as a result, the procurement department now processes 62 percent of contracts without engaging the legal department, approaching an 80 percent goal. Due to these initiatives and AFA-based spending with Hunton & Williams, annual spend for commercial contract review by outside counsel has dropped 80 percent.
  • BT Group plc Employment Law (London) — Replaced a reactive labor dispute and litigation mindset with a focus on proactive prevention. The team redesigned many legal processes with the help of IT solutions and offered training to HR and business colleagues, who are now frequent users of self-service systems. Thus, the law department freed its time for strategic projects, directly handling 267 transactions in 2014, including an $18 billion acquisition of EE (the largest corporate acquisition in UK history). With more high-value work performed in-house, outside legal spend dropped 73 percent between 2013 and 2015.
  • GE (Fairfield, Conn.) — Built the GE Discovery Center of Excellence (COE), a shared services center to support fast, efficient, and effective discovery practices. The COE established a panel of discovery service providers and transferred more than 95,000 hours of document review from law firms to the panel. Average annual savings are 25 percent. The COE constantly adjusts its value levers and has seen 400 percent client growth as additional business units utilize its capabilities – strong adoption of a shared service in a decentralized corporate structure.
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) (Palo Alto, Calif.) — Handled the largest corporate separation in history when Hewlett Packard (HP) split into HP and HPE in 2015 – and came in on time, millions of dollars under budget, and without significant interruption to day-to-day business activities. The team utilized a suite of technology tools already employed in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), leveraging it for new uses, like "cloning" contracts. Even prior to the separation project, the OGC relied on outside counsel and resources only for exceptions, laying a strong foundation for its ability to lead the separation.
  • hhgregg with Ogletree Deakins (Indianapolis and Atlanta) — Revolutionized the process for labor and employment claims by consolidating outside counsel and selecting Ogletree Deakins as its partner firm. Aligned through a value-based fee arrangement, they crafted a preventative approach by analyzing past litigation and company policies to identify a need for further training or policy changes. New technology platforms allowed employee relations staff to manage many requests without legal assistance. Questions can be directed to Ogletree Deakins and response times have dropped from 8-9 days (under old firms) to minutes. Litigation has dropped by 74 percent, claims by 60 percent, and hhgregg saved 44 percent on outside legal spend.
  • Husky Injection Molding Systems ( Milton, Vt.) — Concentrated value efforts on controlling intellectual property costs by identifying and quantifying its most important technology and products. By creating a comprehensive set of tools in-house, collectively known as Husky's Holistic Legal Strategy, including an opinion tool to determine when to seek outside counsel, Husky ensured budget predictability (within 1.5 percent) and cut patent procurement costs by 15 percent annually.
  • Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) — Focused on continuous improvement in its Procurement & Contracting legal team by allowing in-house attorneys to focus on the most strategic contracts while partnering with two law firms interested in new delivery models for high-volume, high-complexity transactional work. The agreement includes intensive use of client-focused success metrics, and the fixed-fee arrangement has improved budget predictability while generating savings of 18 percent. Clear, consistent processes established through new workflows have improved service to internal clients, and the team meets weekly to review data and brainstorm paths to further progress.
  • Palace Entertainment (Newport Beach, Calif.) — Brought personal injury and workers' compensation litigation under control with a focus on prevention. The legal department became a ring-leader in driving safety: hiring a corporate safety expert, reviewing all work processes, redesigning warnings, and partnering with an insurance company that exclusively covers amusement parks. The robust culture of safety has reduced claims by 80 percent and litigation by 75 percent, while workers' compensation incidents are down 55 percent. Case settlements, previously at 40 percent, are down to 10 percent, and outside legal fees are down more than 85 percent through smart hiring of personal injury defense counsel.
  • Red Robin with Bryan Cave (Greenwood Village, Colo. and St. Louis) — Took a holistic approach to the company's contracting processes, including building playbooks and a comprehensive contract management system (CMS) with law firm Bryan Cave, now the company's single provider under a value-based, flat-fee structure. One aspect of the CMS, a "green sheet" offering a contract and approvals summary, has brought needed clarity to the system, making it popular across the business units. The rollout has improved timeliness (90 percent of contracts are completed on time) and lowered risk (100 percent of high-impact contracts are approved via the CMS).
  • Staples Australia and New Zealand (Sydney) — Created Project Reinvention to support the business' drive to diversify. The legal team led a cultural shift away from risk aversion and towards risk tolerance and risk management and fostered an environment of teamwork and accessibility. By educating the sales team on legal matters and simplifying contracting processes, the legal team cut its workload on low-risk transactional services by 40 percent, yielding more time for high-value projects. With less high-value work being outsourced, Staples cut outside legal spend by more than 50 percent.

About the ACC Value Challenge: The ACC Value Challenge, launched in 2008, has provided resources and training for in-house counsel and law firm lawyers to help affect change within the legal industry. By re-aligning relationships and promoting value-based fee arrangements and other management tactics, such as project management, process improvement, efficient use of technology and knowledge management tools, the market for the delivery of legal services benefits from the same insights and wisdom upon which every other service industry relies to provide world-class value to their clients. For more information, visit www.acc.com/valuechallenge.

About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations through information, education, networking opportunities and advocacy initiatives. With more than 40,000 members in 85 countries employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.® For more information, visit www.acc.com and follow ACC on Twitter: @ACCinhouse.

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