Connie Brenton of NetApp. Photo by Timothy Archibald.

This past year, the legal team at NetApp Inc., found itself tackling a challenge that in-house lawyers at many companies must grapple with —a growing number of legal matters to manage, without a corresponding increase in budget or headcount. But few have approached the problem with such aplomb or had as much success in solving it.

According to Connie Brenton, NetApp’s chief of staff and senior director of legal operations at the Sunnyvale-based company, a transformation was in order.

“We needed a mindset shift in how we fundamentally work,” Brenton said in an email interview. “We took a deep dive into what we were going to stop doing, what we were going to outsource and what we would keep in-house. We fundamentally changed the way we ‘right sourced’ work.”

Brenton and the NetApp legal team of 38 attorneys worldwide were instructed by GC Matthew Fawcett not to “do more with less” but instead to “work differently.”

And they did. Their efforts included working with NetApp’s outside legal services provider and contract services group to create a Global Legal Shared Services team. “This team has created a self-service process, leveraging technology, offshoring work where possible and understanding when to support the work with in-house counsel,” said Brenton.

To get a new shared services organization in gear, NetApp had to identify lower-level and more routine work, with the input of in-house lawyers who have helped define global processes that would get this work done efficiently. NetApp also put together metrics and goals for each process, so the shared services team can evaluate performance.

This has resulted in right sourced work and a limited number of escalations up to in-house legal team.  And new efficiencies have been achieved, with time spent on one type of agreement that was shifted to the shared services team model down by 85 percent.

This past year, NetApp grew its legal dashboard, which had originally been designed to look at legal spend data, to include sections on Operations, Contract Services, Continuing Education and Compliance. NetApp’s legal leadership can view metrics in real time around their team’s performance in these areas.

NetApp’s overall focus on metrics and data has allowed the in-house lawyers to excel in finding and negotiating alternative fee arrangements for outside legal work this year. As a result,  68 percent of the company’s outside legal spend is now done on a fixed fee basis.

“NetApp understands our data — we have experience with data collection, cleansing and analysis,” Brenton said. “We know how much legal matters should cost, allowing migration to fixed fees versus hourly rates to be natural and seamless.”