Combining Technology, staffing and fee solutions for better outcome at lower costs
Fortunately, Brad Lundeen is a tinkerer. Lundeen, who joined Cabela's Inc. as senior corporate attorney for labor and employment law in 2010, had become very familiar with electronic case management and e-billing at his previous posts. He understood the power of innovation and how it is changing the practice of law. Unfortunately, he found none of that legal technology at Cabela's and an uphill battle to secure it. Even after developing and presenting the business case and the cost savings that would result, Lundeen's requests were denied for two years. "I was beating my head against the wall and never getting to the finish line," he says. So Lundeen tinkered with the tools at hand, developing his own processes using Outlook and Windows—but he needed a better, more sophisticated toolbox, especially for sharing litigation with his paralegal and outside counsel.
Lundeen was trying to reduce Cabela's legal costs in his area of specialization, seeking a different way to manage administrative agency charges and single-plaintiff employee litigation. While chatting with his longtime acquaintance Barry Hartstein, Cabela's relationship partner at outside counsel Littler Mendelson in Chicago, Lundeen learned of a firm offering that was available within the context of their existing relationship at no extra charge. Littler CaseSmart leverages technology, alternative staffing, and project management to make employment matters more efficient and cost-effective.
"I was immediately sold," Lundeen says. "It met not only my needs for case management, sharing of documents and data on a cloud-based platform, but it also presented me with several other advantages, including flat-fee pricing for administrative and litigated matters."
The Cabela's and Littler teams worked together to transition Cabela's employment law matters to Littler CaseSmart and develop a dashboard configured to Cabela's business. It was truly a collaborative effort, says Hartstein, who notes that Lundeen is "a very technology-savvy lawyer at a company that is cost-sensitive; and who is very committed to teamwork." The dashboard houses all information on Cabela's employment-related charges and litigation, allowing both parties to access the details of cases in real time. It also helps Lundeen spot issues that might be repeatedly causing problems. By examining the full portfolio of employment matters, the legal team can identify trends and manage risk through employee training and other means. To help prevent litigation before it arises, Littler's learning group has put together training sessions for Cabela's employees on topics such as reporting discrimination, investigations, and reasonable accommodations.
Cabela's now benefits from meaningful insight into how to proceed with individual charges and litigation. Lundeen receives an early case evaluation through the platform, 15 to 50 pages that include information on judges, opposing counsel, jury pools, and other critical information to guide litigation strategy. This helps Lundeen and the Littler team decide when it is prudent to settle rather than continue to litigate, improving legal outcomes and costs for Cabela's. It also aids Lundeen in his communication with the C-suite.
"In the past, I might have discussed those topics in a phone call with outside counsel, but I've never had anything in writing, nothing I could share with the executives to show them what we were up against," he says.
Costs are also contained through a staffing model that matches the right person to the right task, and leverages flex-time attorneys in addition to shareholders and associates. Having a dedicated team was especially important to Lundeen: "Previously, I had to explain to each new attorney, in every state and at every law firm, how Cabela's operated, who were the people in charge, what our policies were," Lundeen says. "Three years in, the Littler attorneys are familiar not only with our paperwork but with our people and processes."
Outside counsel legal spend for litigation has been reduced by about 20 percent, and administrative agency charges by 57 percent. The partnership has resulted in improved legal outcomes as well. Whereas the employment litigation caseload was 42 open matters when Lundeen joined Cabela's in 2010, there are now seven, and the number of claims has been decreasing every year. The company hasn't had to take a single case to trial in that time. The team also put in place an arbitration agreement with a class-action waiver that permits the company to resist litigation via single-party arbitration.
Cabela's has now moved from 15 law firms handling labor and employment matters across the country to Littler's dedicated team covering the vast majority of its cases under a flat-fee arrangement that establishes predictable costs for each of the seven phases of litigation. "Lower costs and a more predictable spend have been a phenomenal success for us," Lundeen says.