Aussies win two global awards for excellence



The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has named two Australian companies among its 12 global winners of legal department innovation as 2017 ACC Value Champions.

The ACC, which represents more than 42,000 members in 85 countries, awards legal departments that use innovative solutions, data and technology to overcome legal challenges and save time and money. The Value Champions programme is part of ACC Value Challenge, which annually promotes adoption of management practices that drive value, control spending and yield better outcomes.

“This year’s ACC Value Champions focused on sustainable improvements to ensure the law department is a strong contributor to the business and its goals,” said Amar Sarwal, ACC’s vice president and chief legal strategist. “The companies we recognized reset the conversation about the role of the legal department, then demonstrated how they could turn it from a cost centre to a value centre.”

Australia’s Telstra Corporation, along with Herbert Smith Freehills, both in Melbourne, jointly created the Legal Innovation Forum, inspired by Telstra’s participation in a design-thinking workshop at Harvard University. The forum runs eight-week sprints to prototype the best workshop ideas, and the results have eliminated 40,000 hours of low-value legal work for the team.

Lawyers rotate in and out of the forum, which used a survey of all law department staff as its benchmark for improvements and as a way to identify the areas most in need of change. Staff benefitted from a 52% reduction in meetings, streamlined reports, and empowering clients with self-service legal tools.

The other winner from Asia was Woolworths (Bella Vista, Australia), which developed improved automated systems, reporting, processes and policies to ensure sustainable reduction of internal and external legal costs, and enhanced budget predictability.

With this multi-pronged approach, the law department reduced legal costs (internal and external) by A$29 million (US$21.7 million) over two years, 21% in year one, and 25% in year two.

Woolworths benchmarks its legal spend with others in the retail industry, ensuring its standards beat sector averages. The company started with a legal spend analysis to see what work should be brought in-house, and has set up multiple mechanisms to provide two-way feedback with outside providers and vendors.