Barclays will be scoring its law firms on their innovation and technology offering as part of its last ever panel review next month, with group general counsel Bob Hoyt actively involved in driving the bank’s strategy on legal technology.
Speaking on a panel at Legal Week’s Strategic Technology Forum in Lake Maggiore, Italy, David McCahon, global head of innovation and commercial for legal at Barclays said: “Technology is enabling us to achieve higher visibility on things like how law firms are staffing their work, and in our relationship meetings we make it very clear that we expect them to push their innovation agenda.”
McCahon, a long term Barclays general counsel, started in his current role four months ago and has been engaging with innovation heads and multi disciplinary teams across Barclays panel firms. His initial observations? People don’t naturally love change, and everyone is at a very different stage in their evolution. He said “Bob Hoyt is working very closely with me to drive our strategy on legal technology so it’s coming right from the top.”
The wider panel looked at how the role of the general counsel has gone from risk manager to strategic adviser in recent years, meaning that their needs have changed significantly. That presents new opportunities for law firms, which they are, according to the panel, still often not alive to.
Janet McCarthy, chief legal officer & company secretary, global relocation company Santa Fe, said: “This is not about tightening the screws but the entire industry working together to get better at what it does. You brilliant technologists have the ability to help this industry do things in a better way.”
But she added: “There are no partners in this room: it’s great to have this conversation but my challenge is what are you doing to get buy in when you get back to the office?
“I’m not a sexy brand and I need my firm to be proactive because I don’t have the fantastic resources that Barclays does. If you can get that right you can roll it out across hundreds of companies like me.”
The panel gave examples of positive examples of change, and McCahon said: “One law firm that we recently involved in a pitch brought their legal engineers in and they designed an approach I’ve never seen before, which the business absolutely loves.”
However, McCarthy recently had dinner with the GC of one of the Big Four accounting firms who had gone out to market for a quote on eDiscovery work and come back with a quote of £90,000 from a Magic Circle firm and £15,000 from an alternative legal services provider. “The GC went back to the Magic Circle firm and asked ‘if you collaborate with them will you pass on the cost savings to us’ and the firm said no.” The GC instructed the alternative legal services provider but still instructed the law firm on the strategic advisory piece.
Speaking from the audience the IT director of one UK top 30 firm said: “General counsel need to push back. Many of my suppliers are in this room and if they behaved in the way you have been describing I would kick them into touch.”
Going forward Barclays will assess its panel firms on the basis of ongoing assessment.
The panel was chaired by Katie DeBord, chief innovation officer at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.