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Association of Corporate Counsel

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Association of Corporate Counsel, Frederick Krebs, President, November 2009

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world’s largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

With nearly 25,000 members employed by more than 10,000 organizations in 70 countries, ACC connects its members to each other, and to the people and resources necessary for their personal and professional growth.

Q: What is the ACC Value Index and what will it measure?
A: Stated simply, the ACC Value Index (AVI) provides two specific benefits to our members:  1) the compilation of individual ACC member views on the value received from specific law firms; and 2) the ability to find other members who have used a firm in order to communicate with them and engage in a dialog about their experience. 

The AVI is a specific tool meant to inform decisions as part of a larger process of selecting and retaining a law firm. Using a 5-point scale (1=Poor…5=Excellent), members evaluate their outside counsel on six criteria: 

  • understands objectives/expectations;

  • legal expertise;

  • efficiency/process management;

  • responsiveness/communications;

  • predictable cost/budgeting skills;

  • and results delivered/execution. 

They also answer the critical question that sums up the value of the relationship – will you use the firm again?
Notwithstanding recent publicity, the AVI is not intended to be a ranking system of law firms; it will collect the opinions of our members and provide the “wisdom of the crowd.” ACC will share with each law firm the evaluations it receives about that firm as soon as we finalize the appropriate formats and procedures.

For more details see two recent blog postings: http://www.inhouseaccess.com/articles/acc-value-challenge/
 
Q: How are in-house counsel going to communicate that they are using the ACC Value Index to the firms they hire? 
A: That is up to the in-house counsel.   First and foremost, they should simply talk with their firms. The ACC Value Index can be a springboard for discussion about expectations, value and performance. We hear from our members and some firms that they will use these criteria in their own assessments—that is a good thing. The AVI is only one part of the ACC Value Challenge, which encompasses a larger effort to reconnect value to the cost of legal services.  Other aspects include: a) “Meet. Talk. Act.” which encourages clients and law firms to engage in discussions about value and their relationship; b) a law firm economic model; and c) specific resources with examples of value practices and ideas on “how to” implement practices focused on value. Resources, success stories and updates are continually added to the ACC Value Challenge community pages and we encourage law firms to get involved and help to provide additional information/resources. For more details visit: http://www.acc.com/valuechallenge

Q: What was the driving force behind the Value Index?
A: The continuing desire of our members to share information about which firms provide good value was the driving force behind the Value Index. The ACC Value Index is a component of the ACC Value Challenge®, a broad initiative to reconnect value to the cost of legal services that we launched over two years ago. We provide practical resources for both firms and departments struggling with alternative fee structures and new staff models, and share a variety of “best practices” that focus on efficiency and better management of the legal function. 
 
Q: When you introduced the Value Index at the recent ACC Annual Meeting, what was the response from your members?
A: They were, as one member put it after browsing the Index, “really jazzed” about it. As part of the launch, members of our board and the ACC Value Challenge Steering Committee circulated among luncheon tables at our Annual Meeting, talking about the Index and inviting members to submit evaluations. That created quite a buzz and we collected over 500 firm evaluations by the end of lunch!  It is important to note that while we are pleased with initial response (over 1600 evaluations), the AVI remains in the early data gathering stage and it will take time to develop a robust database.     

Q: What kind of impact do you think this will have on inside/outside counsel relationships?
A: The attention from the media and law firms at this early stage of development reflects the potential value of the AVI to our members. It will inject consistent focus on client satisfaction with value received into the relationship.   We understand that clients assess value in many ways—the AVI will encourage further discussion and collaboration among firms and clients about what is most important to them. ACC will share with each law firm the evaluations it receives about that firm as soon as we finalize the appropriate formats and procedures.  I imagine this will encourage and reinforce change by firms to provide value and meet client expectations.
  
Q: You were once in private practice.  If you were a lawyer in private practice now, how would the ACC Value Index change the way you do business?
A: I would pay more attention to what the client defines as value! I would communicate with the client, and do my best to understand their expectations. I would constantly ask: Do we know what the client expects? Are we bringing the right resources to bear? Do we manage each matter efficiently, keep the client well-informed, and stick with a budget? Do we deliver great results?  Law firms have a tremendous opportunity and challenge in today’s environment—those that get it right will do exceptionally well.

The ACC Value Index presents an opportunity for law firm leaders to drive the changes that create loyal clients and stronger business relationships.  The winners in this market will be the firms that are getting feedback from clients and incorporating that feedback into how they do business with clients.  Here is what you can do and links to how we can help.  
If your firm does not have a client feedback program, now is the time to start one.  If you are already gathering feedback, now is a great time to make sure that your team is using client feedback to build stronger business relationships. Lastly, now is the time to develop the skills that differentiate the great lawyers from the average– skills such as: communicating with clientsbudgeting, billing and managing to the client’s definition of value, and managing projects and expectations.

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