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Cisco GC Talks Real Legal Tech

2007 January 30
by John Wallbillich

The 25th anniversary LegalTech conference is going on in New York City as we speak. Many good people are speaking; good solutions are on display.

Moving West, there’s a different take on legal tech. It’s in the form of a speech by Cisco GC Mark Chandler (hat tip: WSJ Law Blog).

Simply stated, the speech defies a capsule summary. Every in-house lawyer should read it; every law firm managing partner should make it a discussion piece at the next firm meeting. Mr. Chandler isn’t talking about incremental tech-driven change in the approach to delivering legal services to business.

The phrase “paradigm shift” is overused, but that is exactly what Mr. Chandler is talking about: using technology to lower costs and improve legal services, current billing conventions be damned.

Print out Mr. Chandler’s speech, and read it with a highlighter. It really should be the starting point of a discussion. Not a debate, because change isn’t negotiable for forward-thinking GCs.

My personal favorite is this excerpt:

The bottom line is that I’m driven by the same need for productivity improvements as is the rest of the company. It’s simple. As Cisco gets bigger, the share of revenue devoted to legal expense needs to gets smaller. Letters from law firms telling me how much billing rates are going up next year are therefore totally irrelevant to me, or as we say in Silicon Valley, orthogonal to my concerns. Think about it: not one of the CIOs of your firms expects to get a letter from Cisco explaining how much more our products will cost next year. And not one of our suppliers comes to us to tell us how much their prices will go up next year. So from my perspective, I don’t care what billing rates are. I care about productivity and outputs.

I have also written about the annual law firm rate-ratchet-racket. Some firms still see annual increases (up to 20%!) as an intrinsic part of the their business model. Good luck with that…

One last thing in the vein of full disclosure: I have seen a beta version of the Legal On Ramp site Mr. Chandler mentions; content from The Wired GC may be offered to participants.

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