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ACC Renews 'Value Challenge' to Help Law Departments Reduce Costs

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 16, 2017 2:58 PM

It may not be as eye-popping as the ice bucket challenge for a coach at the end of a game, but then again you're not going to get wet with the corporate counsel "value challenge" and it just might open your eyes to new opportunities.

The Association of Corporate Counsel is continuing its challenge to help law departments reduce costs by re-imagining and better managing resources. Each year, the ACC acknowledges the winners by publishing their stories on its website.

Besides the accolades of industry recognition, the goal of the international challenge is for corporate counsel to: 1) reduce legal spending by 25 percent; 2) promote effective budgeting and fee structures; and 3) have fewer disputes, lower settlements, and faster turnarounds. For these companies, as they say in soccer, goal!!!

Palace Entertainment: Reducing Litigation

The theme park company owns and operates 22 parks in 11 states, with 600 rides and attractions, and employs 10,000 people. More than 7 million people visit the parks each year. Workers' compensation and personal injury claims are necessarily part of the cost of doing business.

Taking the value challenge, the company brought personal injury and workers' compensation litigation under control with a focus on prevention. The legal department became a ring-leader in driving safety: hiring a corporate safety expert, reviewing all work processes, redesigning warnings and partnering with an insurance company that exclusively covers amusement parks.

"We investigate claims immediately and thoroughly, taking witness statements, documenting with photos, noting the weather, and so forth," said general counsel Michael Baroni. "This is so that we can develop strategy and settle cases before claimants get to lawyers. I am hands-on with every litigated case and claim."

The focus on safety reduced claims by 80 percent and litigation by 75 percent, while workers' compensation incidents were down 55 percent. Case settlements, previously at 40 percent, went down to 10 percent, and outside legal fees dropped more than 85 percent through smart hiring of personal injury defense counsel.

BT Group Employment Law: Working Smarter with In-House Technologies

One of the largest private employers in the United Kingdom, BT Group employs over 89,000 people. The workforce is heavily unionized in the UK, and legal constraints make it difficult on employers reduce costs.

For years, BT's in-house legal department had been occupied with reactive labor dispute litigation support. Three years ago, however, the 15-person department turned to a more preventive approach with a range of proactive legal solutions.

John Keith, chief employment counsel, said it took "seismic changes to strip out costs." In 2013, the company was outsourcing up to 100 major labor claims at a cost of more than a million dollars in fees annually. An overall of in-house technologies changed everything.

"IT has transformed us from waiting to having a seat at the strategic table," Keith said. "I guess it is a paradox of smart working: We can do more with less if we harness the power of IT, but simultaneously the number of claims has been declining."

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