Casey Flaherty and Jae Um are well-followed in the law firm innovation Twitterverse. Now, they will seek to gain influence and drive change among the global partnership of Baker McKenzie.
The firm announced on Tuesday it had hired Flaherty as director of legal project management and Um as director of pricing strategy. The former consultants will serve as part of a larger team Baker McKenzie has been building aimed at re-engineering the delivery of the firm’s services.
In June, the 5,000-plus-lawyer firm hired David Cambria, dubbed “the Godfather of legal operations,” to serve as its first global director of legal operations. Flaherty and Um both said Cambria’s decision to join Baker McKenzie was influential in their decisions to join the team the firm is building, which is indicative of a broader trend in the industry to build out professional service roles.
“He announced that he was going, and the reaction was, ‘Wait, what? You?’” Flaherty said of Cambria. “That led to much deeper discussions about his reasoning. And ultimately, it was persuasive.”
“It went, for me, from something I hadn’t really considered to something I was quite [excited] about,” he said.
Flaherty, based in Austin, Texas, is a former Holland & Knight associate who worked in-house at Kia Motors and has served as a principal at consultancy Procertas for the past five years. He has written about creating better dialogue between law firms and clients to align their goals.
Um, based in New York, had worked at Seyfarth Shaw from 2012 through the end of 2017, holding various titles aimed at client service, operations and strategy. Her last title at the Chicago-based firm was director of strategic planning and analysis.
In a statement, Cambria said Flaherty and Um are “both widely recognized domain experts in legal business and strategic sourcing, bringing fresh perspectives and unique insights into the evolving needs of our clients.”
Both Flaherty and Um have been vocal about the difficult task of driving real change in a law firm environment. Flaherty once wrote that “law firms are fecund sources of bullshit. The volume and velocity of bullshit are especially high when large law firms position themselves as innovative.”
Flaherty, who has consulted with firms about legal project management roles, said before joining Baker McKenzie he did a thorough “due diligence” about the state of the firm’s LPM function. He said he found it more advanced than almost any firm he had worked with.
“It was real, with real people doing real things,” Flaherty said. “And in speaking with David Cambria and [Chief Operating Officer] Jason Marty, I knew that, directionally, there was a real desire to expand what I’m going to guess is a market-leading capacity even more.”
Um has quickly gained traction in the legal innovation sphere for her work with data visualization (including on projects for The American Lawyer), as well as her writing about the state of innovation diffusion in the industry.
Um said Baker McKenzie’s “systemic investments” in professionals such as Cambria are part of what is needed for firms to drive scalable change in how they deliver legal services.
“What matters to clients is value,” she said. “How can we better structure the [process] around legal buying so we can design pricing structures that pivot around value? And that is a challenge that will require sustained dialogue.”