Bringing Creativity to Legal Operations

Corey

Stephanie Corey is the chief of staff and legal operations senior director at Flex, a global electronics manufacturing company. Stephanie has spent the better part of her career providing value-added services to legal departments, including building and deploying critical infrastructure to enable them to meet their business priorities. After starting her career with Merrill Lynch, Stephanie worked for other financial services firms before moving to Hewlett Packard, where she worked for 11 years as the financial/legal operations manager for the legal department. Her most recent role at HP was chief of staff to the general counsel, responsible for managing the daily operations of the legal department. Since then, Stephanie has started two small companies, including her legal consulting business and Miss Stephanie’s Potions/Creole Labs, which make children’s products. Stephanie is also the co-founder of CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium), a leading trade organization for information about legal operations and connections to the best legal operations professionals in the business.

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What projects or ideas have you been focusing on recently?

We have several things currently underway. Because we recently rebranded and repositioned Flex (formerly Flextronics), we are undergoing a legal department transformation to support the ever-changing needs of our new businesses. The result is a complete reexamination and potential overhaul of how we presently offer legal services, and how our offerings need to change to meet our new, nontraditional businesses. This is an all-hands-on-deck project. Operationally, we are in the second phase of our contracts management implementation, we’re diving deeper into spend analytics and looking at some new tools to do this, and continuing implementation of the efficiency initiatives we identified for each practice group at the beginning of the fiscal year. In the next few months I’d also like to renovate our website, both client-facing and internal.

What could lawyers look at in a new way that would benefit their clients and society?

This will be no surprise coming from someone who heads up operations, but I would like lawyers to be more willing to embrace technology rather than considering it a necessary evil that their clients are forcing up on them, and to consider being more transparent with information. The flow should go both ways between client and firm.

If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?

I would make the whole process less reactive. Outside counsel does the work for you, then a month later they send the bill. Hopefully, you’ve had discussions over the course of that month as to what the work being done was, what the bill will look like, and if they’re really on top of things, they would have put their accrual into your eBilling system so you can properly account for it. This process makes operations managers and the finance team sit around with our fingers crossed hoping for no surprises. I’d like to partner with the law firms up front to get immediate visibility into what’s being done, what’s being spent and what’s going to be billed so there are no surprises at the end of the month. The technology to do this exists, and I’d love to see law firms proactively implementing it and offering it to their clients. It would give them a huge competitive advantage.

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What is the most exciting development you have seen recently in the practice of law?

I think the coolest thing I’ve seen recently is the technology that gives visibility into real-time data, which make financial planning, matter management, and reporting for our in-house attorneys a breeze. I’ve also seen some remarkable artificial intelligence tools that analyze your data for you, no matter what form it’s in, so you don’t have to rely on any type of manual coding. It makes reporting simple and accurate. The tech just keeps getting better and better.

What technologies, business models, and trends do you think will have the biggest impact on the practice of law over the next two years?

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I think we’re going to be seeing more transparency with law firms and in-house clients and the growth of technologies that support this, more use of data analytics and metrics, and more collaboration between the players in the ecosystem, such as technology providers, service providers, law firms, law departments and law schools, working together to elevate the industry.

What’s the best new law practice idea you have heard recently?

Of course I’m approaching this topic from an operations standpoint, but in the last couple of years, I’ve been working with some of the CIOs or COOs of the law firms to come up with creative solutions for some of the common problems we face (e.g. eBilling, the complexity of UTBMS codes, reporting, and quarterly or annual business reviews). In my opinion, these people are key to the future of legal services delivery, and law firms who don’t have this role (or listen to the advice of the person in this role) are already way behind. The people I’ve partnered with in this position are creative and collaborative and willing to work with in-house teams to solve problems. In fact, at the CLOC Institute in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I spoke to two law firm CIOs who had two completely separate ideas for projects that we could work on together. This role, with a creative person in it, make the law firm more progressive and gives them a significant edge over others.

About the Author

GaffneyNicholas Gaffney is a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board and is a veteran public relations practitioner in San Francisco.

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