We recently spoke with Mark Yacano, Global Practice Leader, Managed Legal Services for Major, Lindsey & Africa. Mark began his legal practice working for a firm in Cleveland, before moving to a national litigation boutique firm in Virginia, practicing in the area of products liability and commercial litigation. Mark’s last position in private practice was in the field of ediscovery and information management, building one of the first law firm-centric e-discovery and document review practices. Mark left private practice to head Hudson Legal, a legal staffing firm in the ediscovery space.
Ultimately, Mark moved to his present position at Major, Lindsey & Africa. In his role, Mark focuses on delivering value to clients by working with them to choose appropriate contract management technology and implementing best commercial contracting practices.
Also, Mark and his team developed SmartLook Analytics™ Contract Review Services, a hybrid solution that allows the firm to leverage technology and lean teams of subject matter experts to perform complex contract analysis. Smart-Look Analytics™ is designed to provide clients with a thorough understanding of their contractual risks and obligations in the due diligence, post-closing integration, data migration, and compliance contexts.
We began by asking Mark what value means to him. Mark begins by stating that enabling the client to choose and select the right solutions by providing them with the help and expertise to do so is the ultimate measure of value. We are here to do the “clients night job. They all know they need to find solutions, assess risks, and make decisions. They often lack the bandwidth or the frame of reference to do so, and that is what our team provides them.”
We next asked Mark how clients define value. Mark observed that “clients do not necessarily view the concept of value through one lens.” He noted that some clients view value as investing in technology that allows the business to shorten the turnaround time for the creation and the execution of contracts. Others view value as “the ability to shift certain types of content creation directly to the business units so the legal department can focus on complex legal work, while some simply look for cost-savings.” Clients seize upon service solutions to give members of the legal department more bandwidth to do higher-value work and become better partners to their respective business units.
We also asked Mark for his thoughts on how well the concept of value is understood and communicated in the legal industry as a whole. Mark’s perception is that there is not yet a standardized definition in the legal industry of what constitutes value. He pointed to the lack of “triangulated dialogue among service providers, buyers, and corollary providers as to what it means to deliver value.” For example, both buyers and providers often use the terms value and price reduction interchangeably. But “when the lowest-priced solution does not deliver the necessary functionality or efficiencies to meet a client’s needs, then it has not received much value from that solution. However, Mark believes that discussions around value are becoming more sophisticated because the field of corporate legal operations is “rapidly upscaling” and law firms are increasingly investing in innovation officers, project managers, and data scientists to “help design solutions that deliver better outcomes.”
We asked Mark about the perceived value of emerging technology. “Clients are receptive to solutions that leverage both technology and human acumen.” Mark has found that clients often push back against a technology solution premised on the idea that artificial intelligence provides a complete solution. Instead, “clients want to blend the use of artificial intelligence with a healthy dose of “personal intelligence.” Because Mark and his team are platform-agnostic, they can tailor solutions that meet both their clients’ needs and their thresholds for the adoption of technology. He states that “our team rejects a formulaic approach to consulting and instead embraces a case by case approach to understanding the client’s needs, budget and capacity for behavioral change. … once we understand all of the that, then we find and build solutions that are relevant to those requirements.
Mark notes that companies that do not have a contract management system or have a population of contracts that have not been reviewed or assessed can benefit greatly from their services. “Effective contract management and the strategic use of contract analytics enables companies to accelerate the revenue generation cycle, better manage their contractual obligations, and find and mitigate hidden business risks.” Ultimately those clients “want systems and processes that allow their teams to work faster, more consistently, and to have the information necessary to remediate unacceptable contractual risks.” Clients measure value on how well the solutions and the substantive contractual analysis performed by Mark and his team accomplish those objectives.
Finally, we asked Mark about how vendor management platforms affect the conversation about creating value. Mark begins by noting that vendor management tools have their advantages in the legal industry, arguing that platforms such as ClariLegal help “standardize both the definition of client requirements and the corresponding inputs you want from vendors so you can evaluate them in a more focused way.” As an example, Mark says that his firm performs “deep-level requirements scoping” so that the firm can structure the potential vendors’ demonstrations to focus on the client’s specific requirements. Mark believes that vendor management systems can help impose structure, although they are not yet “a perfect vehicle for procuring the entire spectrum of legal services.