This is a new post in a whole series on the Legal Tech Blog, dedicated to interesting books for those, who would like to understand where the legal industry might be heading and which forces might drive changes. All books presented in this series will explain why legal service providers will work differently in the future. This time the book “The Inside Counsel Revolution“ by Ben (Benjamin) W. Heineman, Jr. will be presented. Please enjoy.
In today’s top corporations worldwide, the General Counsel (GC) is more influential and sophisticated than ever before. They don’t deal with legal issues alone but serve as a primary adviser to the board of directors and the CEO in particular. They must have an expertise, among other things, in guiding businesses through changing times. Widely credited with significantly changing this structure of the modern inside corporate counsel role and shifting more power to the lawyers inside the organizations is Ben Heineman. In his current book, he not only shares his wide experiences but in addition he promotes the use of new technology solutions. He didn’t dedicate a chapter to the topic of technologies in law, but he refers to it substantially throughout the book.
Heineman was born in Chicago and studied at Harvard College (1965), Balliol College (Oxford University, 1967) and Yale Law School (1971), where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal. After he gained various experiences in different positions in the private and public sector, he became the General Counsel of General Electric (GE) in 1987. Even back then GE was one of the biggest multinational conglomerate corporations in the world. During his nearly 20 years as General Counsel for General Electric Heineman changed the self-conception of the inside counsel fundamentally and GE became one of the symbols of the inside counsel revolution. He left GE in 2005 and is today a distinguished Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession.
In his new book “The Inside Counsel Revolution” (2016), he writes primarily for inside lawyers, and those who work with them, to give his views on the role that inside counsels play. It goes into detail on how to attain a high performance with high integrity and sound risk management. He explores the role of the General Counsel and inside lawyers through the examination of, as he calls it, the three core concepts (lawyer-statesman ideal, partner-guardian tension and performance with integrity culture) and through an assessment of eight core issues:
• Risk and Crisis Management
• Citizenship and Public Policy
• Global Legal Organization
• Law Firms and Alternatives
• Future possibilities and Obstacles
In addition to countless observations, explanations, and anecdotes, he gives, among others, the following remarks about legal technology:
• On the first pages of his book, Heineman states that “they [inside counsels] brought important work inside the corporation by increasing inside legal staff, thus reducing the fees paid to outside law firms as percentage of the corporation’s total legal spend. Increasingly, they are using new technology and specialist vendors (e-discovery, specialized research, form drafting, contract lawyers) to reduce further the scope of traditional private law firms” (p. 6)
• In the chapter about law firms and alternatives, he explores key issues for the General Counsel and senior inside counsel in managing the vital but fraught relationship with law firms in an era of significant transformation of the legal profession. He advises inside counsels to “look at all types of resources when determining the appropriate mix for different types of matters or problems: inside lawyers, law firm lawyers, other types of lawyer’s organizations, and non-lawyer vendors of law-related services, especially technology”. (p. 401,402)
• He highlighted that “the legal marketplace is in a period of transformation with long-term secular trends in transparency, competition, globalization, and technology (especially digitized information technology).” (p. 412)
• After writing about law firms, he deals with the alternatives: “General Counsels and their senior lawyers should […] seek to reduce law firm costs – or perhaps slow the pace of additional inside hiring – by using the rapidly expanding armament of alternatives to law firm or legal department lawyers: for example […] hire legal process outsourcing firms to organize a wide array of tasks (such as e-billing, document production, litigation support). […] The increasingly broad array of technology, usually in some IT/digitized form, is an obvious source of alternatives. Technology can not only organize documents and help search law firm bills, but can also track actuals v. budgets, do legal research, draft documents, or embed environmental regulations in plant’s operating systems. In Tomorrow’s Lawyers, Richard Susskind, a persistent critic of the legal status quo, makes a passionate case for widespread use of these new methods, especially technology and especially at the lower, commoditized end of the segmentation ladder. As discussed, the law department’s senior counsel for legal operations must be a conduit of best practices for inside lawyers on alternatives to law firms and to more permanent inside lawyers. The General Counsel and his senior lawyers must consistently be reevaluating how to deploy different mixes of resources to manage different types of matters and different types of tasks.” (p. 416, 417)
The book “The Inside Counsel Revolution” by Ben W. Heineman Jr. proves again the increased importance of technology in the legal world. Whether you are an in-house attorney or an outside lawyer who serves clients, the role legal tech will play in the years and decades to come will increase ever more.