Skepticism in the relationship between the legal and procurement departments in corporates is not unheard of.
Legal has traditionally regarded the purchase of legal services as specialised and not capable of enduring the same processes that apply to the purchase of widgets - so the argument goes. Procurement, on the other hand, becomes frustrated at legal’s relationship-centered ‘we know quality when we see its approach, and the perceived lack of metrics and data-driven decision-making of such an approach. Procurement believes that if you know your business, you should know how long it takes to deliver your services and how much something should cost.
However, there are now initiatives that help bridge the gap, and signs out there that suggest the benefits of doing so are becoming apparent to the corporate legal services buyer.
One such initiative is the establishment of the Buying Legal Council, the brainchild of Dr Silvia Hodges Silverstein. The Council describes itself as ‘the trade organisation for professionals tasked with sourcing of legal services and supplier management’ and whose mission is to ‘advance the field of how legal services are bought.’ Although US centric at present, the initiative to bring together and advance the learning of those who procure legal services is one I expect to catch on more broadly and strengthen ties between legal and procurement departments.
Another factor that will encourage this alignment further is the increasing importance of data and metrics-driven buying. The procurement professional’s demand for predictability, project and budget management sits comfortably with this approach. Add to that some recent examples of procurement and legal, combining to deliver an in-house solution to reduce legal costs and improve results. One was so successful, they spun the initiative off to advise other corporates on how to do the same - see AIG’s The Legal Operations Company. I think we’re seeing the makings of a trend.