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Legal Ops’ OG Maverick has an eye on the bright future of the industry

Today, a newly minted attorney might opt for an entrepreneurial legal technology career instead of taking a more traditional route. Thirty years ago, it was not only atypical, but was the sign of a maverick. David Cambria chose the latter. Recently we caught up with Cambria to see where he envisions the greatest opportunities in legal operations today.

Cambria has uniquely served in leadership roles at virtually every type of legal entity: In-house, an AmLaw 100 firm, a Big 4 accounting firm, and at a legal consulting firm. When we spoke, he recently completed a stint at PwC. 

Because of the broad set of disciplines and capabilities that legal operations professional bring to the table, Cambria reminds industry professionals to stay laser-focused on the needs of an economic buyer, which he defines as the General Counsel/CLO, as well as their attorneys, compliance functions, claims professionals, law firm lawyers, legal professional staff and insurance claims professionals. He is excited about the evolving landscape in legal service delivery. Big 4 and other significant management consulting firms are trying to leverage their best skills such as global transformation, improving performance and value, enhancing collaboration and innovation, and reducing costs and risk. 

Cambria also observes that adoption of generative AI across legal is at a level of interest and excitement not seen in decades, and the law school ecosystem is engaged in serious discussions about what the future of legal education needs to entail to produce the best lawyers for the future. His  optimism is tempered by his appreciation of and understanding that these changes are not without their challenges in execution, because of culture, regulation and plain old resistance, which are alive and well in all things legal. 

“In the legal marketplace today the greatest opportunity remains assisting the various economic buyers in navigating the best ways to provide the most effective, efficient and valuable legal advice to an increasingly complex set of business problems and buyers,” Cambria said. 

“Those who are able to lead their stakeholders on this journey are uniquely positioned to solve the complex issues facing multinational corporations. At present the Big 4 and ‘white glove' management consulting are uniquely positioned to solve the complex issues facing multinational corporations. Do you need lawyers positioned globally on call should you need them? Guidance in leveraging tech for greatest value? Support in building and evolving a strategic plan over time? These are examples of topline issues for which these entities have bench depth resources but to date they have failed to capitalize on these opportunities at scale.” 

Cambria added that the Big 4, in particular, have to get out of their own way and focus on three things: 

1.    Navigating the regulatory challenges unique to Big 4, as well as expediting the conflicts clearing process to offer timely service delivery,
2.    Helping clients make the case for their higher price points, or level of investment, in particular for areas that are not highly regulated, and 
3.    Developing strong leaders within these practices, who not only bring real industry experience beyond consulting, but also are able to challenge and drive the very organizations they grew up in to think differently, to deliver differently and collaborate globally in ways that are not generally part of  Big 4’s DNA. 

The Big 4 have invested heavily in this space, though to date their impact on legal has not scaled at the pace they anticipated. As a result, we have seen Big 4 start to pivot in various ways.

•    EY recently halted its plan, known as Project Everest, to separate its audit and consulting services after investing an estimated $100 million in preparations
•    Deloitte recently elected to restructure its legal business solutions practice, and
•    PwC pivoted from cloud for legal to a partnership with a generative AI company focused on serving legal. 

Only KPMG, which adopted the most cautious legal exploration of the four, seems to remain on its original plan.

Cambria notes there are many smaller consulting boutiques and technology providers within the legal space that could disrupt the larger firms’ progress. One only need to look at the recent headlines to see how companies that were not even on people’s road map a year ago are now making headlines regarding partnerships with law firms, corporate law departments and behemoth content providers. The most interesting thing in all of this, according to Cambria, is how multiple levers are influencing the entire eco-system in tandem. 

“Whatever a legal service provider or technology company thought their approach would be six months ago is different today. Needed are different skill sets, and different volume of resources in different roles,” Cambria said. “For example, a reduction in reviewers offset with an increase in people with good judgment in how to leverage those tools." 

As a co-founder and board member of several legal operations, law firm and legal education platforms, Cambria believes that organizations and networks can and should do several things to assist the legal operations community in advancing legal service delivery across the eco-system. 

Some productive actions are to:

1.    Provide more robust education and training for legal operations professionals and stakeholders to enhance their skills, knowledge, comfort levels and competencies in various aspects of legal service delivery such as technology, process improvement, project management, data analytics, information management and change management.
2.    Facilitate collaboration and innovation among legal operations professionals and other legal stakeholders in traditional ways such as forums and events, and also foster partnerships and alliances among the different players in the ecosystem.
3.    Advocate for standards and practices that promote quality, efficiency and value in legal service delivery.
4.    Promote awareness and recognition by showcasing the achievements, innovations and contributions of the legal operations community to each other and to the clients they support.

Legal operations is at an inflection point in its nascent evolution. It’s too early to know what legal operations 2.0 will look like, but rest assured, David Cambria will remain where the action is. In Part 2 we will focus on Cambria’s adventurous and broad career that gives him a unique perspective on the evolution of the legal industry for the 21st century.

Region: Global
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