Telstra taps law firm to rescue 40,000 hours

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Telstra’s general counsel finance & strategy, Mick Sheehy, is in the business of being productive in his role providing legal advice to Australia’s well known telecommunications company.
However, even he is excited about what has come out of Telstra’s innovation forum initiative, on which it has sought the expertise of top tier law firm and advisor Herbert Smith Freehills.
“We partnered with Herbert Smith Freehills on our innovation forum, which is focused on solving productivity opportunities that would result in measurable time savings over relatively short periods,” Sheehy told Australasian Lawyer.
“Collectively we’ve already freed up more than 40,000 hours per annum of low value, unproductive work for our team to focus on higher value, more strategic activities,” he says.
During the 2015/16 financial year, Herbert Smith Freehills and Telstra Legal developed a collaboration framework to manage matters and workflows and drive significant cost savings and productivity. This collaboration stemmed from the law firm’s ‘re-imagine legal’ approach, which asks the question of how the provision of legal services might be re-imagined.
Partner James Crowe says the collaboration started by applying legal project management processes and techniques to M&A transactions and IT outsourcing arrangements.
“Significant cost efficiencies were gained through constantly improving project reporting, fee updates, playbook design and outsourcing less strategic work to lower-cost jurisdictions,” Crowe says. “Our joint framework has since expanded from specific transaction-focused innovation to investigating productivity opportunities generally across Telstra Legal,” he says.
Herbert Smith Freehills now facilitates regular workshops utilising design thinking and agile prototyping to drive better ways of working, leading to ongoing productivity gains.
“Data is collected which provides the basis for creative problem solving. Between workshops, 12 week ‘sprints’ are run to prototype workshop ideas,” Crowe says.
From a cultural perspective, Telstra Legal is now prioritising innovation thanks to the outcomes of the collaboration. “Through the sprints our lawyers our now dedicating regular spots in their working week to focus on productivity initiatives,” Sheehy says.
Innovation has been a key plank within Herbert Smith Freehills’ global strategy for being a world class professional services firm. It has put in place a global innovation and efficiency group consisting of senior partners and business services people, tasked with identifying innovation opportunities within the firm’s business processes, client interactions and legal work.   
Just one example is the rollout of its global legal project management model, which comprises two centralised teams of project management, process improvement and data analytics specialists and embedded legal project managers within practice groups across its network.    
The firm says that the structure and skill-set of the team has allowed it to leverage the complementary fields of legal project and process management, technology and data analytics to deliver premium, creative and efficient client service across its global footprint.