NetApp General Counsel Matthew Fawcett
NetApp General Counsel Matthew Fawcett

Today’s general counsel is tasked with several critical functions that ultimately provide measurable value to their organization. The GC must work in such a way that leads their department to control spending while providing critical services to the organization.

It’s a tall order for even the most modern GC.

To advance these efforts, the Association of Corporate Counsel offers the ACC Value Challenge, an initiative to “reconnect the value and the cost of legal services.” The ACC Value Challenge is based on the concept that law departments can use management practices that enhance the value of legal service spending – and that law firms can reduce their costs to corporate clients and still maintain strong profitability.

Matthew Fawcett, general counsel of NetApp (which was named this year as an ACC Value Champion) recently outlined three steps that focus on reducing inefficiency and boosting value to the organization. His three-point plan is summarized below: 

First, Fawcett says the modern GC needs modern tools. Many of these tools are cloud-based. For example, GCs can start to use: electronic signature technology, contract management and legal holds. By implementing a contract management program, the average turnaround time to close contracts improved 80 percent for NetApp, “yielding huge efficiency gains,” according to Fawcett.

Cost control is another area GCs need to focus on to create a competitive advantage for the company. According to Fawcett’s statistics, most major law firms have lawyers billing at $600 to $900 per hour, and “the $1,000/hour ceiling has been shattered in all major cities.”

Given this trend, GCs need to contain costs. Fawcett recommends cultivating a healthy ecosystem of relationships with outside counsel and other legal service providers, which facilitates “open, objective, productive discussions.”

Finally, Fawcett recommends that GCs implement dashboards and analytics to better manage their law departments and manage outside legal costs. 

“Through the use of analytics, we make transparent commonly-elusive issues around appropriate staffing and billing,” Fawcett explained.

Fawcett and Connie Brenton, NetApp’s director of legal operations and chief of staff, realized that in order to provide flexible, efficient and high-quality legal services to NetApp’s growing business, it would have to do away with the traditional model of reliance on outside counsel and outside service providers. Read more about NetApp, one of the legal profession’s top innovators, here