This feature originally appeared as part of The American Lawyer's "Top 50 Innovators" package.
Big-firm lawyers may think they have all the answers, but some of the biggest innovations affecting large firms have originated outside the large-firm world, with in-house counsel and nonlawyers. In the eighties, Earle Yaffa—then a consultant at Arthur Young & Company—signed on as managing director at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. In the process, he brought a corporate mindset to firm management and kicked off the "C-suite revolution"—the army of chief marketing officers, chief operating officers, and chief revenue officers that followed. More recently, Cisco Systems, Inc., general counsel Mark Chandler and Pfizer Inc. general counsel Amy Schulman have pushed for abandonment of the billable hour in favor of flat fee arrangements. Looking forward, the future belongs to such innovators as legal process outsourcers Sanjay Kamlani and David Perla, founders of India's Pangea3, and Sir David Clementi, the British accountant whose reform of the United Kingdom's legal regulatory system has led to the first outside equity investment in British law firms. AMY SCHULMAN Pfizer Inc. New York OFF THE CLOCK
Under this GC, Pfizer went all out to embrace flat fees for its outside counsel. EARLE YAFFA Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom New York GOING CORPORATE
Skadden's Yaffa set the mold for today's C-suite professionals. SIR DAVID CLEMENTI The Clementi Report London THE CLEAR CHOICE
The accountant who brought transparency to the U.K. legal system. MARK CHANDLER Cisco Systems, Inc. San Jose, California FOR HIM, THE FIX IS IN
In Silicon Valley, an early evangelist for fixed fees. HUGH McLERNON JOHN WALKER IMF (Australia) Ltd. CASH IN ADVANCE
Bringing third-party litigation funding to Australia — and the world. STEVEN BRILL The American Lawyer New York
In 1985 Brill had an idea: Why not rank U.S. law firms by financial performance, just like public companies on the Fortune 500? Brill's innovation, The Am Law 50 (eventually expanded to 200 firms) rocked the secretive world of large law firms. While some say the rankings corrode firm culture — encouraging lateral movement, overemphasizing partner pay, and discouraging lockstep—there's an upside: increasing the transparency of a powerful, multibillion-dollar industry. "If you take [private] enterprises and report which work most efficiently and productively," Brill told The American Lawyer
in May 2012, "you're enhancing the marketplace." MARK HARRIS Axiom New York
When Mark Harris was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in the 1990s, he decided that the pyramid structure of law firms—a broad base of associates and a small set of partners—was outdated and inefficient. In 2000 Harris, along with Stanford MBA Alec Guettel, cofounded Axiom, an alternative legal services business that allows clients, including such companies as Cisco Systems Inc. and Google Inc., to "insource" Axiom attorneys or "outsource" legal functions to Axiom itself. Axiom's business model has disrupted the industry by allowing clients to pay a fraction for services that had been performed by outside firms. BEN HEINEMAN JR. General Electric Company Fairfield, Connecticut
Before Ben Heineman Jr. took over as general counsel at General Electric Company in 1987, in-house counsel were seen as "Rolodex lawyers," farming out most of their work to outside counsel. Heineman changed that, peppering GE's legal department with partners from such firms as Baker & McKenzie and Williams & Connolly. Many of them went on to the executive ranks of companies like Home Depot Inc., Pfizer Inc., and Tyco International Ltd, among others. By luring all-stars to GE and assigning them demanding matters, Heineman proved that in-house work was worthy of top-notch talent.
Mumbai and New York