Insights from the Intapp 2020 Risk Staffing Survey
The Intapp 2020 Risk Staffing Survey revealed numerous insights into the challenges faced by law firm risk teams, and how they are addressing these challenges via staff professionalization and service centralization. The report showed that many of the surveyed firms — especially the larger ones — are turning to risk management policies that address their international profile, backing these up with centralized, professionalized staffing models and expansion of services. By using the deep talents of various administrative teams — including the office of general counsel, conflicts and risk, finance, IT, human resources, business development, and others — firms can better tackle the complexity of global risk management.
During a recent webinar to discuss the survey, Meg Block, Vice President of Risk Consulting at Intapp, welcomed Patty Fitzpatrick, Senior Director of Compliance and Information Governance at Seyfarth Shaw, and Jennifer Schwendemann, Senior Director and Associate General Counsel of Risk Management at Littler Mendelson. The webinar addressed three of the most common challenges: conflicts clearance, management of engagement terms, and research into new issues such as global data privacy.
“The large firms [show] complete recognition that risk management is a tough business that needs a breadth of specialists to address,” said Block. “We’re finding firms are adopting a more collaborative and systematized approach.”
Attendees of this webinar revealed their own risk-related challenges via an online poll. 42% of attendees named “managing engagement terms” as their top challenge, with “broadening the mandate of risk function” coming in second (39%), and “training the risk team to improve their analytical skills” and “hiring top talent for a professionalized risk team) tying for third place (36%).
Fitzpatrick provided context to the professionalization and globalization of the legal risk function by laying out the journey of the last 21 years — including the impact of smart phones on lawyers’ service expectations. Seyfarth dealt with the overwhelming growth of data volume by pioneering the use of conflicts lawyers to analyze conflicts and risk.
Littler Mendelson had a unique staffing journey, as Schwendemann attested to. After the firm founded its Global Services Center in Kansas City, fewer staff members relocated than anticipated, and the firm worked hard to both find and retain new talent for the Center. Schwendemann explained that this episode led the firm to create ongoing training programs to help new and current staff feel more confident and motivated in their roles, which in turn helped with retention. Littler is also one of the few firms where conflicts analysts are managed by conflicts lawyers and are collectively responsible for the clearance of conflicts from across the entire engagement lifecycle.
Like 58% of the North American survey participants, both Seyfarth and Littler manage the firms’ calendar and docket functions. Fitzpatrick emphasized how managing both conflicts and the calendar and docket strengthened the firm’s ability to track additional parties to a matter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, calendar and docket functions were especially challenged with the need to reschedule thousands of events. Both Seyfarth and Littler have put in place new procedures to track virtual events.
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