Risk Roundtable: How to Improve Business Acceptance Processes

Kristy Safos | June 28, 2017

On June 9, over 20 representatives from the legal vertical joined HBR Consulting and Intapp at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York for an invitation-only Risk Roundtable. Participants from law firms and investment banking firms came together for a thoughtful discussion that included ideas and insight into how to improve the business acceptance process.

Conflicts Models: Understanding the Current Landscape

Kicking off the roundtable, Pat Archbold of Intapp discussed the varying models used in the legal industry for conflict clearance (e.g., transactional, de-centralized, hybrid and centralized). As Pat discussed, historically firms began their conflicts clearance models with a transactional or de-centralized model; however, the transactional model has mostly been sunset in the industry. The growing trend in law firms is migration from de-centralized to a hybrid or centralized model. The migration has occurred slowly over the past decade, but is gaining popularity as more and more firms are dealing with client-sided engagement agreements, audits and malpractice insurer policies.

As firms evaluate their existing process and consider efficiencies, they are also closely examining the potential return of their investment (ROI). Pat indicated that when calculating ROI, many firms are focused on the savings to the billable hour, and the cost savings can be significant. Concrete costs savings examples from law firms ranged from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars per year.

Much of this time savings, however, will not necessarily generate additional billable hours to the firm. Realistically, lawyers will always ensure that they bill for work being performed. Instead, the cost savings to the firm (and lawyer) is realized in time savings. By lawyers gaining back very valuable time in their day, they benefit from better work / life balance and are able to focus additional time on business development and marketing efforts.

During the roundtable, participants were polled to understand each firm’s current business clearance model. As part of their response, attendees provided information on their firm size and staffing model. The results showed that 80 percent of participants indicated an interest in changing their clearance model (including processes and staffing). With 20 percent indicating that they are already employing a centralized clearance model.

Effectively Managing Change to Conflicts Models

With a staggering 80 percent of participants indicating a desire to change their current clearance model, it was critical that we next discuss what firms can do to effectively manage change in this area. Myself joined by Makaylia Roberts Binkley of Intapp shared insight into our experiences in the industry regarding:

  • Turning points (e.g., firm culture, current staffing, jurisdictional and regulatory requirements, client demands)
  • Staffing models (e.g., skillset level, staffing volume, tiered roles, exact function)
  • Change management (i.e., how to get to centralized clearance)

A lively discussion ensued in which many participants provided insight into their clearance models and how they have successfully achieved change in their organizations. It was enlightening for the firms striving to attain a centralized model to hear from centralized firms that they disagree on the organizational structure and skillset level of their teams. This demonstrates the impact that firm culture can have on the overall deployment of a centralized model.

Alexa Pothier of Intapp concluded the session with a discussion on how firms can implement change and what changes are being incorporated to obtain buy-in or investment from other administrative departments. Many firms are redefining their new business acceptance models to incorporate pricing, marketing, collections, security and business risk assessments. By incorporating all firm needs into the new business process, firms are creating efficiencies and cost savings into the overall lifecycle of new business.

The recent roundtable further substantiated what we have been seeing through our work with clients: the legal industry is redefining the way that they accept new business. Those firms that reexamine and transform existing intake processes successfully will benefit from increased efficiencies, cost savings and mostly importantly, additional business and revenue.

To learn more about the key takeaways from the roundtable or for guidance on how to implement change in your organization, contact me at