How to Keep Your Sanity With Crazy Legal Workloads

Published on: 9/22/21

 

 

HOW TO KEEP SANE WITH CRAZY LEGAL WORKLOADS

In this episode of The Contract Lens Podcast, Lee Hoang, Account Executive at Malbek, chats with Basha Rubin, co-founder and CEO of Priori Legal, about leveraging contract overflow support to effectively scale to your legal needs. The conversation kicks off with Basha explaining what contract overflow support is and how it can be a much more cost-effective way to scale. Flexibility is key, so Basha also touches on how legal support can create efficiency for your legal department. She then describes the signs that you may need to consider legal support services and higher a general council. So grab a glass of wine, and let's talk contracts!

 

Intro:
Welcome to the Contract Lens Podcast, brought to you by Malbek. In this podcast, we have conversations with contract management thought leaders and practitioners about everything contracts and its ecosystem. On today's episode, we discuss how to make contract management more efficient. Joining us for this conversation is Basha Rubin, Co-Founder, and CEO of Priori Legal, a legal marketplace aimed to change the way in-house teams find, hire, and manage outside counsel. She launched Priori with a classmate after she graduated from Yale Law School in 2013 and has been an avid speaker and advocate for change ever since. So now it's time to relax, grab a glass of wine, and let's talk contracts.

Lee:
Basha, welcome. Thanks for joining our podcast today.

Basha:
Thank you so much for having me, Lee.

Lee:
I'm excited to talk to you some of the articles that you've written, and I think we're very lucky to have you as a guest, on our podcast today. I thought it would be good to get a kind of brief understanding, of your background and as it relates to legal operations, and the world of kind of contract management and, learn a bit more about your passion about this.

Basha:
Absolutely. Well, I can start with a little bit of my background if that makes sense, and then we can go from there. My name is Basha Rubin. I am the CEO and Co-founder of Priori. Priori is a legal marketplace for in-house teams to find hire and manage a global vetted network of attorneys at firms of all sizes. So our clients are everything from fortune five hundreds to fast-growing technology companies who see us as a way to achieve a wide range of outside council goals. Whether that is identifying hard to find lawyers like local council or niche expertise, looking to reduce their spend by moving work away from larger firms to our vetted network of smaller firms, looking to achieve their diversity goals, or looking for flexible support, either secondment style or what I think we're going to spend a lot of time talking about today. Contract overflow support.

Basha:
I launched the company with a classmate of mine from Yale law school in 2013, and we raised our series A in September of 2020. So we've been really growing and scaling over the last year and have had the opportunity, over the course of my time as CEO of Priori, to work with thousands of companies as they're thinking about how to manage their outside council programs.

Lee:
That's excellent. And that sounds like a very exciting time, for yourself right now there Basha excellent. You mentioned specifically contract overflow support. So let's talk about that. For our listeners, what is contract overflow support? What type of service is it and how do organizations recognize that this is something that they may require?

Basha:
So contract overflow support is basically what the name implies. A lot of our clients leverage commercial contract overflow support through the Priori platform in order to meet, the ebbs and flows of their contracting needs. So whether it's that they're a fast-growing technology company that just raised their series B and has a solo in-house council who is responsible for the full stack of contracts, everything from, mission-critical sales and partnerships through to vendors for their new office space. They're able to take advantage of fractional support through the Priori marketplace in order to be able to offload some of the less vital work that still needs to be done, it's vital and that needs to be done, but it's not necessarily complex to attorneys or a marketplace in order to be able to, leverage their resources and scale all the way through to much larger companies who see having a more dedicated program of commercial overflow support to be a really flexible way to meet the seasonal ebbs and flows of contracting needs.

Basha:
Particularly during the pandemic, I'll footnote that we've seen, a lot of growth of interest in this service, as it's been harder in some cases to be able to get additional FTEEs approved so it's a way to get the kind of support that you need without bringing on full-time employees.

Lee:
That's very interesting. That's very interesting. So what I'm getting from that is organizations don't have to necessarily leverage these overflow services for the mundane. You mentioned that during COVID, there's been a real increase, in these types of services. So it sounds like organizations could actually leverage these as a strategic tool for strategic method moving forward. Am I looking at things in the right way here, Basha?

Basha:
I think you absolutely are. You know, it's everything from the rote to the much more complex, I think that depending on the kind of organization and the needs that they have different kinds of models make sense for some companies, it's something more rote. For others, it is the kind of contract that because of the nature of their business, they see on repeat. So they are able to train a set of attorneys on what their preferences are, whether it's NDAs on to BAAs whatever it is based on the nature of their business, they're seeing it at volume. They can train attorneys to understand what, their preferences are. I'll also say one of the things that we just did at Priori, which was a product launch for us, is we just onboarded ALSPs and other legal technology companies to the Priori platform. So depending on the scale of your need, maybe you need an individual attorney who's allocated 20 hours a week, or maybe what you're looking for is, a much more scaled solution where it makes sense to outsource the work overseas or to apply AI-based contract support as, as a marketplace, we're pretty agnostic as to what the right solution is. We just want to provide the tools to be able to understand what is available on the market.

Lee:
That makes sense and you mentioned something very interesting there, you said a talent platform or a legal platform and usually organizations don't think about the legal function being embedded strongly in software, as you see with sales and HR and other areas of the business. So talk to me a little bit more about that when you mentioned the talent platform, that legal platform within the organization, is this something that will increase. Is this something that organizations can start leveraging more effectively as well?

Basha:
I certainly think so. I will admit to being biased here, but that's our whole thesis. We've built a marketplace for legal services and we've built a whole range of different kinds of technologies in order to facilitate access to legal services cost of effectively. So it's everything from an RFP tool to sort of easy proposal comparison and communication through to billing and invoicing so that in-house teams can onboard us as a single vendor through accounts payable and via that relationship work with as many lawyers or law firms as they like so that they can easily compare lawyer law firm and ALSP proposals in an apples to apples way. And so that lawyers can spend less time doing administrative work like invoicing and collections, and more time actually doing billable work as well. And I think this is the future. I think it's something that we're seeing across industries and interest in leveraging talent that isn't necessarily full-time employed at your organization. And that that can be a much more cost-effective way to scale.

Lee:
Oh, interesting. Essentially, you were mentioning increasing that network of skilled legal talent. So, how does that help organizations from that cost perspective? You mentioned that's very interesting.

Basha:
I would answer that in two ways. One is that a lot of organizations habitually fall back on traditional larger law firms for work that the larger law firms can perform, but could be done at quite literally 20% of the price that they're paying. If only they knew how to access and find the talent and there's inertia to that, to just going back to the same person. And then the second part of that is as an organization is growing and scaling the kinds of legal needs and the kinds of legal expertise that you need can change dramatically. And using a talent platform like ours is a more flexible way to grow. So you have your core in-house team, but then you can pull in different kinds of specialties as needed, whether it's for 20 hours a week for six months until that sunsets or matures. And so you can in a more narrowly tailored way address your needs.

Lee:
That makes a lot of sense as well. Also what I'm understanding from that is that organizations, they can avoid things such as, as you alluded to avoid reactionary hiring when they do have this increased network of talent that they can leverage. And from that cost perspective, it sounds like that it doesn't necessarily mean that those costs will be extremely high when you leverage these services, because as you mentioned, traditional legal firms, their cost structure seem to be pretty [inaudible 00:10:36]. So here's a question for you Basha, is there such a thing as too early for entrepreneurs or startups, or even kind of your smaller organizations to start considering legal overflow or legal support services in general?

Basha:
That's a great question, Lee. We do get businesses kind coming to us before they have an in-house council, though. It's not our typical user and where I think that a lot of those businesses hit a moment where the volume of contracting no longer makes sense to particularly if they're venture-backed to be sending to their big law firm. And so they're looking for a more cost-effective way to manage it. And I think there are a couple of roads that we see our clients go down for some it is to come to an organization like ours and for others, it's to hire their first in-house council. And, I think that is a question of the different kinds of legal needs that they expect and, whether they expect their organization to scale and, or raise more money.

Basha:
When in-house teams have a large volume of contracting but aren't necessarily at a point where they have a significant footprint of other kinds of legal needs. I think that commercial overflow support or getting, basically a part-time GC seconded through the Priori marketplace can be a really neat way of solving the problem without allocating full budget to a general council. Who's going to helm the legal function. And I think then, it's really a scoping exercise and understanding exactly what you would want that person to do and how many hours of support you would need. And when they would be providing that support, and we've seen that very successfully and lawyers, who've partnered with organizations for five years of working about 20 hours a week through the platform.

Basha:
I think then there becomes a question of, whether at some point you do want to hire a general council. And, one of the mistakes that I seen entrepreneurs make there is thinking that hiring an in-house council is going to significantly reduce their legal budget when really it is a way to better manage their legal budget proactively, but often it will not come immediately with a reduction in cost, which I think is a common misunderstanding from earlier stage companies as well. But as an organization scales, I think it does make a lot of sense to proactively hire a general council who can make sure that the function is organized so that the backlog doesn't grow significantly.

Lee:
That it make sense to me. And actually, that goes onto a great next question from me. So Basha when we look at organizations that are considering hiring full-time legal council, do we see technology and services such as legal zoom and such like eliminating, the need for organizations to have a need for full-time general council?

Basha:
I mean, honestly, no, not at all legal zoom and other kinds of forms companies are good for, very basic legal work, but it, in no way for a growing organization, are any of those services at a place where it can mean that the company does not need legal counsel. As a lot of the entrepreneurs I've worked with over the years have found there's a real risk too, with the DIY route. And I have talked to many entrepreneurs who made decisions early on with DIY services that couldn't be undone as easily as, as they'd hoped and created myriad legal problems and legal costs down the road. So I would always advise entrepreneurs to talk to an actual attorney.

Lee:
That makes a lot of sense Basha, absolutely. So what would you say then Basha would be the main legal issues that organizations perhaps more related to small businesses and startups? What, should they have covered before they start looking at leveraging full-time general council or even contract overflow support?

Basha:
I think they're somewhat different questions. I think for commercial overflow support, there are different things, right? You could get a fractional general council who would be more of a generalist and you could do that through the Priori marketplace too. I should say, who would be able to address a wide range of different kinds of core Britain, commercial legal needs. And I think that there's a different kind of lawyer than someone who wants to do commercial overflow support. When we're talking about commercial overflow support, we are usually talking about a kind or kinds of contracts that your organization is seeing at volume, whether that is vendor contracts or SaaS contracts or NDAs, or what have you, but you have to be looking at, the past few months and say, wow, it's crazy. We did 30 of these contracts every month. Instead of sending them out to a big law firm. If I had someone working 10 hours a week, I could teach them how to do it, and they could do it much, much more cost effectively. So I think those are somewhat different questions.

Basha:
I then think the question of when to hire a general council, I'm sure there are many people who've thought about this and much more deeply than I have, but think that it is an assessment, both of how much you've spent on legal fees and whether you feel like you, whether that legal footprint is going to be similar going forward, how much of your time as a founder it's taking and what your plans to scale are. And I think it's sort of a mix of all of those different factors in making the assessment. What I would say though, is I think that sometimes startups are interested in hiring as an FTE a contracts council before they hire a general council, because it is precisely the kinds of legal needs that we've been talking about, that they see coming up time and time again, and they think they might be able to solve it best by a more junior FTE.

Basha:
And I think that is often not the best route, because you can a much more experienced person as a solo practitioner, a lot of the time and get a lot more bang for your buck, so to speak. And I think it also can create some friction in building the legal function down the road.

Lee:
So that makes sense, so it sounds like it's not a clear cut weight for organizations to make that decision, but more so on where they are in their business and what they're trying to achieve in their short, mid and long term. But it does sound like there's a lot of support and information out there for organizations to help them on this journey such as your, your organization. Basha. So thank you so much for joining me today and in our conversation, I think you did a really amazing job on covering what overflow support services entail and how best to kind of think about whether as an organization you require them. So would like to give our views a quick summary of anything interesting and anything exciting that's going on within your organization. At the moment

Basha:
We work with a range of companies. It is everything from companies before they have a general council to multiple of the fortune 10 who see us as a way to identify a wide range of different kinds of legal support from commercial overflow support to boutique firms who can manage patent complex commercial litigation for companies who are doing IPO prep to, companies who have a real estate needs, in all 50 states. We, see ourselves as a single source solution for companies and in-house teams to reduce their outside council spending and increase their satisfaction with the legal services they're being provided. You can reach me at my Priori address. It is just my first name. Basha@Priorilegal.com

Lee:
Basha, I for one learned a huge amount today. Thanks again for sharing your precious time. I'll be reaching out via LinkedIn, to connect with you very soon. And thank you again, Basha, for spending time with us today.

Basha:
Thank you, Lee, so much for having me today. I really appreciate it. And I would love to connect with anyone who has any questions.

Lee:
Well, Basha thanks so much again for, for helping today.

Basha:
Awesome. Thank you so much.