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Designing & Enabling a New Legal Service Model

By Jennifer J. Salopek

Many in-house attorneys are happy in part because they no longer have to bill their time, jokes Patricia Kim, Vice President and Chief Counsel, Global Labor & Employment for Danaher Corporation. Yet, in pursuit of a new service delivery model that would provide relief to her leanly staffed three-person team without sacrificing the client service they prided themselves on providing, Kim and her colleagues spent four and a half months conducting an internal timekeeping and activity tracking exercise to generate critical data. The company cherishes the Danaher Business System, which emphasizes data- and fact-driven approaches to process improvement, so it was crucial that Kim be equipped with evidence to support her drive for change.

Danhar Team

Joseph Bernasky, Patricia Kim, Colleen Giusto

A science and technology company with more than 60,000 employees and more than 20 operating companies worldwide, Danaher's decentralized operating model meant that all of its operating companies—none of which have specialist L&E attorneys—would call Kim's team with lots of routine inquiries. She wanted her lawyers to work at the top of their skills, but the drag of the routine was dominating their bandwidth; Kim found herself outsourcing an increasing amount of work that she would prefer her team to work on.

"The only way to dig into this was to figure out how much time we were actually spending on routine matters. We were motivated to do the hard work," she says. "With our eyes on the prize, we recognized that we were going to emerge with a service model that was going to be better for us, allowing us to deploy our skills and talents in a higher-value way, to be more challenged and to have time for the more complex matters."

The team analyzed the data to uncover and categorize the nature of their client inquiries, the level of advice they were giving and how much time they were spending.

"The resulting data supported our hypothesis that we were being underutilized—in fact, even more than we realized. It allowed us to make the business case to our clients that it was worthwhile to pursue a new solution," Kim says.

Data in hand, Kim and her team designed a new L&E service delivery model based on three components:

Toolkits and best practices. The team continued to create a series of extensive toolkits for many critical areas of labor and employment law, including basic legal information, templates and process maps.

Internal portal. Those toolkits and best practices reside on a redesigned internal portal, which allows clients easy access to the most current information. "We had created toolkits for standard work before, and tried to disseminate them to entities," Kim says. "By adopting a 'pull' versus 'push' approach for the new portal, we were trying to change the paradigm with a central location where our clients could draw down the information and know that it would be current."

Global ER4HR Helpline. Seeking to shift the remaining calls to a new resource, Kim turned to Seyfarth Shaw's Lisa Damon, who had worked with Danaher for many years. They collaborated to design, model, pilot and roll out the ER4HR Helpline in the United States. Through the Helpline, five Seyfarth attorneys provide Danaher HR clients with real-time legal advice for routine L&E issues. A service-level agreement guarantees a two-hour response time and call logging within 24 hours. A customized dashboard displays data on inquiry volume, resolution time, data on requesting units and teams and other factors to identify potential legal trends. A fixed monthly fee guarantees that Kim's spend is predictable, and resulted in savings to Danaher of almost 60 percent, or $105,000. (Kim worked with Bird & Bird to roll out a similar helpline for Europe.)

Kim didn't want to sacrifice quality for lower cost. Program elements ensure accountability and maintain the high-touch, Danaher-specific way her team provides legal advice that internal clients had come to expect:

  • a governance framework that ensures higher-risk matters immediately escalate to the in-house L&E team
  • training for ER4HR team members on Danaher best practices, toolkits and policies, including a 1.5-day in-person training session
  • careful promotion and socialization of the new model, including an unveiling roadshow, dedicated email addresses and phone lines, and customized email signatures for the in-house lawyers that include ER4HR contact information.

  • "Danaher is committed to making the Seyfarth panel the best it can be. The training ensured that we understood Danaher's philosophy and enables ER4HR to stand in the shoes of Patricia's staff," says Damon. "She is trusting her outside counsel to sit in her legal department. We regard this as Danaher's team, not Seyfarth's Danaher team."

    Data gathered by the helpline facilitates knowledge management now and in the future. "It is opportunity-rich. We can evaluate why we are getting calls in a particular area, especially if there are best practices or toolkits available on the portal. That reveals a disconnect, and shows us that a correction may be needed, so we can design further training," says Kim.

    In its first 16 months, the ER4HR Helpline received more than 1,300 inquiries. The Danaher in-house L&E legal team has re-captured more than 17 work weeks of attorney time. They were able to handle several large, high-impact matters internally with their newfound bandwidth, resulting in savings of more than $200,000 on outside legal fees and increased engagement by team members.