Priori recently chatted with Lisa Konie, Senior Director of Legal Operations at Adobe, as part of our #AceYourLegalOps interview series for CLOC 2018. In it, Lisa discusses the importance of relationships in legal operations and how CLOC reflects the collaborative spirit of the industry.
What is your definition of legal operations?
Legal operations is anything that doesn't naturally fall on the shoulders of an attorney. This includes anything from strategy, ops planning, financial management, tools, technology, pro bono, communications etc. If it's not transactions, counseling or classically legal, it's with me and my team.
How is Adobe improving legal operations?
One of the ways we were instrumental in improving legal operations was having the foresight to create the role almost 10 years ago. Many people feel like it's an up-and-coming space and yet it's been around for a significant period of time. Here at Adobe, my focus for the past two years has been fine-tuning our program with outside counsel. At one point, we had upwards of 400 law firms that we were using and this wasn't realistic or manageable. We have been in the process of doing a convergence program as well as ensuring better relationships with outside counsel through our preferred panels. This includes really treating the partnerships as a relationship and not as merely a vendor.
What does it mean to treat partnerships as relationships rather than vendors? Are there key differences you could highlight?
With my preferred firms, we originally had regular weekly meetings set up on our calendars. Now we do it every other week. Even if it's a 30-minute touch point, it's 30-minutes to talk about the health of our relationship. That's a big differentiator. The firms also do a quarterly business review at the end of each quarter where they provide me with a series of data points and metrics. This is a useful tool for us to talk about the health of our relationship and to really understand whether we have the right people on the Adobe team. It helps us work out whether we are leveraging the right resources both from a legal professional perspective as well as an attorney perspective. There are so many things that data can tell us and thankfully the legal operations space has advanced so far that people now have access to that data both internally, as well as within the law firms. And clients like Adobe are not only asking but requiring our firms to lead with that kind of information. That's certainly one way that I think about it being much more of a partnership than just a classic service provider relationship.
We also offer a pro bono activity in connection with one of our preferred firms. I reached out to that law firm and said, “Hey, we would like to partner with you to do something so that your attorneys go and our attorneys and other legal professionals can go.” It became not only a good event from a pro bono perspective, but also a nice social event for the folks across our companies to mix and to get to know each other. It's all of these added intangibles that build the relationship and create a very different approach.
What has your legal ops team aced in the last 12 months?
It's hard for me to say what has my team has nailed in the past 12 months because I could point to every single individual on my team and talk about something amazing they've done. I can give you some examples. My second-in-command just went to London to do a boot camp with our outside counsel. She put together the entire content for a two-day session and did an absolutely amazing job. One of the other people on my team is redesigning our SharePoint site and creating a portal that's much more user-friendly for our internal folks. I've just hired a new person who is going to lead all of our technology and information initiatives, which is tremendously exciting. The best thing I've personally done in the last 12 months is hire this new person to help drive improved strategy and help us scale from a technology perspective.
What has surprised you in the evolution and emergence of legal operations as a field?
It's been the willingness of people to collaborate and help each other out -- which gets us back to the root of CLOC. My general counsel came to me two months ago when we were in the throes of our reward cycle and evaluating talent and said, "We really need to benchmark seniority across other companies." By using CLOC as a platform and resource, we were able to develop data that allowed us to successfully argue to our HR department that we deserved to promote a few more individuals. Mary O'Carroll at Google and CLOC is probably the ultimate example of this, because if anybody wants anything she's one of the first people offering help and providing samples. I think back to law school and how cutthroat it was…and it’s incredibly nice to then fast forward all the way through my profession to this point where people are willing to share and to be open about things that went well for them and things that might not have gone so well so that others can learn and don't have to struggle.