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Practice Innovations —; Managing in a changing legal environment
Gray Rule
October 2015 | VOLUME 16, NUMBER 4
Gray Rule
Managing the Intelligent Global Expansion of Research Services at Squire Patton Boggs LLP
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Managing the Intelligent Global Expansion of Research Services at Squire Patton Boggs LLPScott Bailey, Global Research Services Director (US LLP), Washington, DC; Philip Duffy, Deputy Global Research Services Director (UK LLP), Manchester, England; Kelly Underwood, Senior Researcher (AU LLP) Perth, Australia
Where lawyers can take advantage of time zones, handing on work around the globe, Research Services also chases the sun answering reference questions. If a lawyer in Brussels asks a lot of our Brussels librarian, she can easily request assistance from the UK research team. If they can�t complete the request before close of business, they can pass it to the US offices, where our US team can move it from east coast to west coast.

Global expansion has been a fact of our professional lives in this firm for decades, and change management has been woven into the tapestry of our global approach from the outset. Collectively, the three of us have worked in the one firm for 34 years or, depending on how you look at it, 14 firms in 34 years, because the firms we each started out in have grown and changed significantly, combining to become Squire Patton Boggs. We are a Swiss verein of three arms, a United States LLP, a United Kingdom LLP and an Australian GP. We have more than 1,500 attorneys in 44 offices in 21 countries, with more than 60 percent of offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. We are indeed global players, a fact that has been enhanced even more recently by our expanded presence in the Middle East through our combination with Patton Boggs.

International presence has transformed our business strategically over and over again, and consequently the role and management of the research team has needed to be flexible and dynamically responsive. The constant cycle of change and growth has made our positions feel like multiple roles, embracing and encompassing new resources and challenges every day—rigid adherence to a standard procedure simply cannot cope with the pace of change. Many of the challenges of managing global expansion are somewhat obvious on their face, but the solutions are complex and varied. First, without a good team of insightful and collaborative research professionals, managing a global service cannot happen.

Let's examine some of the challenges in light of the Squire Patton Boggs LLP case study and the professionals who managed the expansion. As a Global 20 Law Firm, our firm positioned itself through strategic combinations with Hammonds and Patton Boggs to have a global reach beyond its already strong global presence. Research Services by necessity has positioned itself to be nimble and quick to respond. As a result, these challenges are being met with a stronger team of researchers than ever before.

A prerequisite for a successful research team is to embody the idea that the ideal outcome is a valuable service for the firm. Our view is client-centered; it encompasses both internal and external client priorities. Each of the firm's employees—not just the lawyers—is considered to be a client of the research team, along with every client of the firm itself. Equal importance is given to research questions whether they are from the facilities management team or from a billing attorney. Only deadlines dictate priority.

A major combination of the firm in 2011 into the three-armed verein sparked a collegiate, collaborative atmosphere throughout the offices, which was embraced by the research teams scattered around the world. John Poulsen, the Managing Partner of the Australian arm of Squire Patton Boggs, calls us the "one firm firm." Squire Patton Boggs operates as one firm, in multiple locations, supporting and assisting clients around the world. Thirty-four percent of work generated in one office is worked on by other offices, and 460 of the firm's top 500 clients have used attorneys from two or more offices around the world.

Where lawyers can take advantage of time zones, passing on work around the globe, Research Services also chases the sun answering reference questions. If a lawyer in Brussels asks a lot of our Brussels librarian, she can easily request assistance from the UK research team. If they can't complete the request before close of business, they can pass it to the US offices, where Squire Patton's US team can move it from East Coast to West Coast. A couple of hours later, the Perth, Australia team gets into the office and can pick it up, finish it off and deliver the completed research before the Brussels lawyer and librarian arrive at the office for the day.

While the Hong Kong office library resources are arranged through the UK LLP and therefore "officially" their library assistance ought to be through the UK research team, Hong Kong staff members regularly email the librarian in Perth, because both Perth and Hong Kong operate in the same time zone. In the early morning, the San Francisco librarian assists Sydney staff members via the firm's Research After Hours email address before the Perth office opens up. This flexibility in provision of services is useful to staff, but it does raise the problem of billing. The United States generally bills out usage of research resources, whereas the United Kingdom and Australia include them in firm overhead calculations and only bill out any disbursements incurred.

Another issue with this collegiate, flexible provision of services is when global good intentions are defeated by localized services—it doesn't matter where you are in the world, all UK Land Registry searches—online and in person—can only be performed during UK business hours. That means a US librarian will need to bounce back a late night Research After Hours email request from a London lawyer to the UK research team, so the search can be arranged the following business day.

Time zones are equally a blessing and a curse. While they facilitate a chase the sun reference service, they also make it exceedingly hard for the entire team to meet without at least one person being inconvenienced by a very late night or early morning teleconference.

We are undertaking a project to merge all the different office library catalogs into the UK library catalog software, EOS. Once this is complete, we will have eliminated one of our smaller challenges. Currently, an Australian or Hong Kong lawyer may email a nonurgent request for a court-ready copy of a decision from a specific UK law report series. The Australian librarian has the option to request it from another firm locally, or ask the UK office for a copy. If the librarian requests it from the UK LLP libraries, and none of the UK libraries actually hold that series or the particular date period, then a UK librarian will often request it from another firm local to them, and forward it on to the lawyer once they have received it. This small inefficiency uses the time of two Research Services staff members, instead of one. A workflow best practices team from within Research Services is working on these, as well as other "jump ball" issues of service.

Another challenge we are facing is trying to combine our individual publisher contracts into global contracts. By doing this, we are likely to save money, but also widen access to resources—if the Madrid librarian has picked up a reference question from an attorney in Arizona, it is infinitely easier if the Madrid librarian has access to the same online resources as the Arizona attorney. Where we fall into difficulties is if the publishers aren't willing to provide access on a global basis.

This globally-staffed research platform does have tremendous advantages in collaborating on cross-jurisdictional questions. With multiple language skills and different access points to online resources around the clock, our team is able to complete and maintain multijurisdictional projects in a variety of practice areas with regional expertise. Clients can access extranet research that has been curated by a knowledgeable global team through their own customized interface designed to their specifications.

There are a few publishers that see the benefits of a firm using a global subscription, recognizing that while the entire firm technically has access, the likelihood is that only the "French speaking," "[Middle East country] jurisdiction," or "European-based" lawyers will use the service, and charge accordingly—not charging for a 1,500 person legal headcount but rather for an appropriate percentage. But some publishers have a corporate structure which has divvied up territory and simply cannot countenance the concept of sales being allocated to multiple entities, and therefore block the combination of territory contracts into global ones.

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