Empowering the Victorian government to become an 'informed purchaser'
When it comes to making a decision about any purchase, having the right information is crucial to the process.
And when it comes to decisions made by General Counsels (GCs) about engaging legal services from external firms, the same principles can be applied.
When the buyers of legal services are empowered as "informed purchasers", they can make better - and more cost-effective - decisions about the best solutions to their requirements. These can include both the specific services required, as well as the best ways to budget for these costs.
These purchasers can also ensure they are getting the best value from their lawyers, and quickly and easily evaluate the quality of their service.
What makes an informed purchaser?
When it comes to managing legal services, there are several unique criteria that can help GCs become informed purchasers.
It goes without saying that General Counsels want to be effective decisionmakers - and may base their evaluation of various solutions on several factors including realistic cost estimates, the quality of legal services and value for money.
But when making the decision to select the appropriate lawyers and firm to work on a particular matter, they are challenged by a range of issues. These include knowing which individual lawyer or law firm is the most appropriate for the job, keeping tabs on the budget, and coming up with strategies to manage and measure the performance of and service provided by the lawyer.
It was precisely these challenges that prompted the government of Victoria to adopt the Legal Panel Gateway in an effort to empower GCs with more knowledge to make decisions and control over the process.
YarrisLegal was deployed to streamline these processes, creating a simple and straightforward way to address these issues head-on.
Managing internal and external legal spend
The Victorian government's expenditure on external law firms, the employment of public sector lawyers and barristers' fees and salaries is considerable - this can stretch into tens of millions of dollars in a given financial year.
In an effort to manage this spend alongside its goals for social equity and strong governance, the state government established a new legal panel arrangement in 2009.
This panel was set up to help better manage internal and external legal matters in accordance with best practice and was supported by a web-based system to help procure and engage relevant legal services.
As part of the YarrisLegal solution, an online quotations process was introduced to add an extra layer of competition within the legal panel - ensuring the right services were provided at the right price for various major legal matters.
The reporting process was also customised to not only support the Victorian government's social equity objectives, but also drive performance improvements at both the in-house counsel and panel firm level.
Keeping on top of business objectives
The Legal Panel Gateway (LPG) needed to comply with a of number business objectives set out by the Victorian government, which included increased capacity for knowledge sharing, easy single-point access to panel requirements via a web interface and the improved ability to manage conflicts of interest, match the legal needs of the client with the expertise of panel firms, and improve the statistical and financial information required for panel reporting.
The government was also interested in customised reporting to support its objectives relating to social equity, as well as reporting measures to ensure ongoing contractual compliance obligations were being fulfilled.
The YarrisLegal service helped the Victorian government achieve each of its ten business objectives, while at the same time, making a number of other significant improvements.
These include automating expenditure reporting and analysis, as well as providing quick answers to questions at short notice.