A View From London – Collaboration, costs and technology sharing

Legal heads should emphasise the efficient use of technology across their own departments,
businesses and with law firms, says Christopher Barnard, General Counsel Coca-Cola Europe

La presión existente dentro
de las asesorí­as jurí­dicas
para sacar el mayor
partido posible a sus
presupuestos, no
comprende sólo la
obtención de servicios
legales más económicos o
la bíºsqueda de diferentes
formas de facturación, sino
también trabajar de
manera más productiva,
eficiente y efectiva –
obteniendo así­ más
resultados con menos
recursos, dice Christopher
Barnard, Director Jurí­dico
de Coca-Cola Europe.

The pressure on in-house legal
departments to extract the most from
their legal budgets is not just about
obtaining legal services more cheaply and
looking for different forms of law firm
billing, it is also about working more
productively, efficiently and effectively –
getting more from fewer resources.

Maximising internal efficiencies
requires not just the right provider of
legal advice but also the right
mechanisms and internal structure. It
used to be simple. In-house lawyers were
dedicated to a single business unit and
were fairly self-contained. Not anymore.

Lawyers now may advise more than one
unit and there may be less of them doing
it. At the same time in-house practice has
caught up with the profession and
become more specialised. But not every
business unit can justify employing the
specialist lawyers it needs. Consequently,
many specialists are now employed
centrally and shared among business
units, operating as if they were part of the
business unit legal team.

This requires a matrixed organisational
support structure. For a global company
like Coca-Cola this can be across
geographies as well as legal specialisms.

To make this work effectively
collaboration is essential. If the legal
function is to operate in true partnership
with the business it needs to operate
without barriers.

Collaboration for us is all about
facilitating, teamwork and co-operation,
sharing information and developing
common values. In our organisation this
occurs at multiple levels, even within the
legal function itself. It can be within one
business unit, a geographic group or
across the globe. Then there is the need
for collaboration with the business for
which the lawyer is responsible –
colleague (client) collaboration if you like.

And finally, there is external collaboration
with law firms.

We realised that wherever and with
whomever we were collaborating,
including external counsel, technology
would be the key to facilitating the
necessary productivity and efficiency.

Our work starts with a matter –
standard practice for private practitioners
if only for billing purposes. This is where
technology should start. In-house we
open a matter because this is the start of
the collaboration process. Multiple
lawyers in different locations may be
working on the same matter, but opening
only one combined file to which
everyone has access, is more efficient
than many separate files. This also
facilitates future collaboration by
archiving the matter so that it becomes
part of the knowledge library. Should the
need arise there is also only “one file” for
discovery purposes.

Collaboration with business colleagues
can also be facilitated, for example,
through the use of a contract
management life cycle system. It also
helps manage costs and free-up
resources. It allows business managers to
prepare their own agreements from
templates accessed online, but it also
helps the legal function to manage and
balance the risk/value equation when
deciding the best use of its own

Finally, there is collaboration with law
firms, which will generally have more
advanced technology than in-house

For example, we receive many law
firm updates and bulletins. These are
directed to individual lawyers’ email
boxes but as well as overloading them,
the relevant subject matter may not
always reach the right lawyer. One
solution could be to establish a virtual
information room, into which panel firms
could deposit their updates organised by
subject matter and jurisdiction. In this
way it becomes part of our institutional
knowledge and can be managed

Law firms I am sure can think of many
other ways to collaborate with us by
leveraging their technology, which many
take for granted. The technology needs of
the in-house legal function is often the
lowest priority for the IT department,
with funding for technology difficult to
secure. Anything a law firm can do to
help their in-house clients become more
efficient, by sharing their technology, will
be seen as real added value.

If we are to be successful as an inhouse
function, collaboration is essential
– not only in managing and containing
costs, but also in maximising our
effectiveness. The way we are organised
and the way we work demands
collaboration and technology is the key to
making this happen.