What Do Alternative Legal Services Have to Offer?

Adjacent to the work undertaken by law firms and legal departments, alternative legal and consulting services have seen incredible growth over the past decade. Chad Volkert, the GlobalHead of Legal Consulting at Protiviti, tells us more about the explosive growth of these legal sector services and how Protiviti is looking to meet an unprecedented demand.

Could you give us a brief overview of what legal consulting solutions and alternative legal services are and how they are designed to assist law firms? 

Legal consulting practices, including Alternative Legal Services Providers (ALSPs), offer high-demand specialised legal solutions to law firms and corporate legal departments to help improve their productivity, lower their costs and mitigate risk for their clients. The rules pertaining to eDiscovery began to change throughout 2006, which increased the obligations of law firms and corporate clients to provide electronic data for litigation, really accelerated a need for outsourced service providers with legal and technology expertise to help with litigation and the voluminous amounts of electronic data. This data included emails, digitised paper documents, invoices, contracts, etc., that were first maintained on corporate servers and are now stored on cloud-based systems.

Since then, demand for these types of services has seen a marked increase, with spend on ALSP now approaching $25 billion – an increase of more than 10 times over the last 20 years, according to our research. This increase also reflects the effects of the financial crisis in 2008-2009, after which corporations began to bring much of their legal work in-house to reduce overall legal costs. In many cases, since they needed non-traditional legal services outside of what was offered by a law firm, they turned to specialist providers to fill any gaps for their legal in-house requirements. At the same time, law firms began to partner with legal consulting firms to tap into their alternative legal services to provide the best options for their corporate clients.

You have described alternative legal services in the past as a ‘people’ business. Why is that?

Legal consulting firms, including ALSPs, work with corporate in-house legal teams and law firms to identify areas where their specialised offerings and solutions can create efficiencies across various areas of legal work. Discussions with key stakeholders, who often come from executive departments throughout the corporation, are critical so the ALSP can understand the areas of concern and provide effective, tailored solutions that address the root of the issues.

Demand for these types of services has seen a marked increase, with spend on ALSP now approaching $25 billion

We build trusted advisory relationships with the C-suite about what keeps them up at night, what problems they are trying to solve, and their key initiatives for growth. We look at their potential exposure to risk including litigation, compliance programs, legal privacy issues, their IT security concerns, contract management and ways to increase profitability by streamlining work. Our goals are to build long-term relationships and aim to be trusted partners to enhance their business and legal objectives. The consultative approach allows us to create unique, tailored plans for each of our clients.

How do legal consulting firms partner directly with lawyers and in-house counsel to optimise their practice?

One simple yet important word: teamwork! Here at Protiviti, we provide deep expertise in business, technology and legal advisory services to ensure there is nothing we are not considering in assisting our clients. Within the legal space, that could include focusing on litigation, forensics, legal compliance matters, project management, contract outsourcing and optimising legal work. In our other areas, we could bring experts to bear in business performance improvement, ESG, data security, audit, fraud and investigations and digital transformation. We also provide a level of transparency that is not historically typical in the legal profession, including giving clients access to multiple technology platforms that allows them to review the work our people are doing in real time, at any time. These platforms also include daily and weekly productivity dashboards and key metrics about our performance and the overall objective.

We see our services as complementary to those offered by law firms and in-house counsel and actively partner with them to ensure that together we offer the client an efficient, cost-effective approach that maximizes our individual areas of expertise. In many cases, law firms reach out to us before proposing solutions to potential clients, offering our services in concert with their legal expertise as a key differentiator that assists them in winning work. At Protiviti, as part of a wider business consulting firm and with our parent company Robert Half’s talent solutions , we can also recommend and bring additional experts to a client at a moment’s notice at a different cost base compared to traditional firms.

During a recent client engagement, we were initially engaged to optimise their legal department’s contracts system, but on learning that the company was planning to go public, we were able to provide robust consulting expertise in relevant legal, financial and technology areas around taking a company public and quickly identified a full-time lawyer whom they then brought in-house to assist the general counsel in the IPO.

The consultative approach allows us to create unique, tailored plans for each of our clients.

Which areas of legal practice are often the most ripe for improvement? 

How corporations handle their contracts. Many companies are still in the process of transferring from paper to digital records or merging software systems (especially if they are acquiring another entity). We can help smooth and expedite this process. We can also assist more generally in helping companies understand what’s in their contracts and offer advice on remediating them, if necessary.

Privacy. This is an area where many companies today need specialised assistance form a legal, IT and compliance standpoint. We provide both data privacy and legal privacy strategies including the legal drafting of privacy processes and work with our clients to locate and secure their data and understand what their vendors may be doing with their data.

Investigations. We can go through all of our clients’ documentation to quickly identify risk and fraud issues.

Mergers & Acquisitions. We typically work with general counsel and the C-suite on due diligence for M&A matters as well as contract remediation as new systems merge with other CLMs.

Optimising New Technologies. With the proliferation of new technologies available, many companies are unsure of which ones to use or the capabilities of those they already have. We bring data and IT teams to help them optimise the latest technologies for efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Why is a holistic approach necessary to the optimisation process?

A company may be working with multiple vendors, contacts and price points – an inefficient and costly process for GCs. With a global consulting firm like Protiviti that includes legal consulting and alternative legal services, we can partner effectively with a law firm or in-house counsel because the client can find everything they need under one roof – people, processes and procedures. The client deals with one management team responsible for conducting oversight over the whole project and with access to the best expertise. Our team is tasked with finding the most efficient, cost-effective, innovative and up-to-date ways of solving the client’s issues. For the majority of clients, this proves to be a very positive, stress-free approach.

How can an over-reliance on new legal tech also be counterproductive?

There are many new tech products on the market and they can all sound attractive at first. We can assist clients in understanding if they really need the product, and if they do, we can bring in expert consultants to implement it and help train their people to use it. The legal field still remains a ‘people business’ at heart, though; to get to the root of the problems, find the most effective solutions and build long-term trusted relationships, there is no substitute for discussion around the table.

Do you feel that alternative legal services present an attractive prospect for new law grads?

Yes, most definitely. The alternative legal services industry has been on a steep growth trajectory since 2006. It means that law students are no longer limited to a traditional career path within a law firm or in-house legal department. Instead, they can stay in the legal space and enjoy the challenges offered by consulting-based work, which includes continuously meeting new people, building relationships, frequently working on new projects and being tasked with solving meaningful business issues.

About Chad Volkert

What first sparked your interest in legal consulting and alternative legal services?

I have always had a passion for people and providing solutions, especially related to the legal world. I knew midway through law school that I wanted to be involved in the legal space, but most likely on the business side. I have worked for the same organisation (first at Robert Half, now at Protiviti) for 23 years, as the company has afforded me the opportunity to evolve and rapidly grow our practice.

It is fantastic to be able to work closely with extraordinary clients, including lawyers and business leaders, around the world to enhance their companies. I am energised each day by being part of the legal world, and I am always looking forward to collaborating with my colleagues, in-house counsel and law firm managing partners or practice leaders to solve client problems in a constantly changing and challenging business environment.

What do you foresee for the future of legal consulting including alternative legal services?

It is an exciting time to be in the legal consulting and ALSP field. The dynamic environment in which we operate means that new opportunities emerge all the time. For example, during the last couple of years, we have assisted many government agencies with managing their COVID-19 relief efforts and related legal work. Other “new” areas are the increasing focus on legal privacy issues which have presented opportunities for us to support companies needing to improve that part of their business.

Corporations are increasingly realising that outsourcing their legal needs can provide access to outstanding legal talent, increase transparency in the work being done by experts in specific areas and reap immediate bottom-line results. At the same time, law firms perceive that alternative legal service providers can bring a depth of legal expertise in key areas that significantly benefits their clients in partnership with the law firm’s invaluable legal advice. We have every reason to think that the current rate of growth will not slow down any time soon.

 

Charles ‘Chad’ Volkert, Global Head of Legal Consulting

Protiviti

200 E. Broward Blvd, Suite 1600, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 33301

Direct line: +1 305-790-4193

E: charles.volkert@protiviti.com

 

Charles ‘Chad’ Volkert is the Global Head of Legal Consulting with Protiviti, a global consulting firm and subsidiary of staffing firm Robert Half, where until recently he served as a Senior District President for Robert Half Legal and Executive Managing Director of Robert Half Consulting Solutions. He is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, where he received a degree of juris doctor, and holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Furman University.

Protiviti’s legal consulting practice provides corporate legal departments and law firms with unique, alternative legal services in the areas of eDiscovery, contract management, information governance, compliance, data privacy, legal department optimisation, M&A solutions, legal technology, managed solutions and in-house legal advisory work to improve productivity, lower costs and mitigate risk for clients.

Leave A Reply