When a Biglaw firm builds and promotes a cross-disciplinary, globalized approach to cybersecurity, I take note. And when one of my colleagues is helping lead that charge, I feel compelled to write about it (and if I have learned anything from this election cycle, it’s that there is simply no such thing as an inappropriate time for a product plug).
So what is this new business model? They are calling it a “one-stop shop” for cybersecurity risk assessments and compliance. It was the brainchild of my colleague Christy Weisner (a UVA Law grad and former Mayer Brown associate) and the co-chair of Pillsbury’s Cybersecurity Task Force, Brian Finch. The alliance combines the legal support heft of my company, Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services (f/k/a legal outsourcing company Pangea3) with the superior legal know-how of Biglaw powerhouse Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw & Pitman LLP. Last, but certainly not least, is a very cool company called FireEye, a cybersecurity consulting firm and an essential piece of the puzzle.
It’s not every day you see a Biglaw firm like Pillsbury (a white-shoe firm dating back to the 1800s) announcing a partnership with an alt.legal company – even though many quietly rely on such arrangements to win new business and keep clients happy (we see you lurking in the closet there).
Christy was, coincidentally, my very first recruit to the alt.legal community, so I was proud to see her working alongside innovators in Biglaw to craft new solutions for new problems. So, this week I chatted with Christy and Brian about the origin of the alliance, as well as Christy’s experience on the alt side of the law. Enjoy.
Joe Borstein: What exactly are Pillsbury, Thomson Reuters, and FireEye doing together?
Christy Weisner: A number of things, including risk assessments in response to regulatory requirements and in support of general cybersecurity programs, and M&A due diligence with a focus on cybersecurity risk.
It’s not rocket science: companies need to understand their risks and address them. But they can easily forget major areas of risk. So we banded together our legal, process, and technical expertise to provide a holistic approach to assessing and addressing cyber risk within a cost-effective delivery model.
Brian Finch: While Biglaw firms have a lot to offer, the reality is that we cannot be everything to everyone. That’s particularly true when it comes to cybersecurity – law firms can and do employ a number of people who are very sophisticated when it comes to cybersecurity matters, but the reality is that they will never replicate the resources and technical skills of other service providers.
Bringing a combination of skills together, however, like the ones offered by Thomson Reuters and FireEye, gives us the chance to present a more robust and well-rounded offering to a potential client. There is clearly significant value in presenting a more complete set of cybersecurity skills in one presentation along with the message that “we know each other and have thought about ways to work together to help you.”
JB: How did this collaboration come about?
CW: Brian is an innovative and client-focused lawyer. When we met we quickly realized that our legal support services and their legal expertise were complementary (not competitive). Since Pillsbury already had a great relationship with FireEye, he brought them into the discussion and we figured out that there’s a really great fit to all of our services.
JB: Is this collaboration a model of things to come?
CW: I think so. There is great opportunity for firms who are getting cut out of the delivery of legal services, because they can’t price their work rationally, the client has increased their in-house capabilities, the client comes directly to companies like ours, or some combination of the above.
It’s a shame, because while we can do wonderful legal process work, we can’t offer legal opinions and advice.
JB: If there is so much potential, why do you think more firms are not creating partnerships like this?
BF: It’s hard to speak for every firm, but in my experience there are certainly a lot of lawyers who think they can handle it all themselves, or just do not want to invest the effort in finding suitable collaborations. Some firms also like to stick with what they feel they are best at – providing legal counsel. That’s their decision, and I certainly wouldn’t question that. We are doing what we are doing because we think clients and potential clients like the idea of multiple skill sets coming together to offer a coordinated package of services.
CW: To me, it’s shortsighted, but understandable. Biglaw firms need all the business and billable hours they can bring in. But at the end of the day, you’ll bring in more work if you are able to scale seamlessly, and price work rationally and competitively. Junior partners often get this and are coming to us with ideas. Senior partners, in their defense, are often too rich to care!
That’s why it was so refreshing to meet Brian and actually put pen to paper and come up with something that clients need and can afford.
BF: To me, Cybersecurity is a fascinating issue that impacts every sector of the global economy. It’s transforming every part of the world. As technology advances, people are finding ways to exploit that progress to make economic and other gains using illegal or unauthorized means. And that is presenting incredibly unique challenges to everyone from law firms to Fortune 1000 companies. The law is having trouble catching up with the problem of cyber threats, and so all sides – from regulators and plaintiffs’ lawyers to general counsel and solo practitioners – are scrambling to figure out how to deal with these issues.
It’s fascinating and overwhelming at the same time, and also presents a rare opportunity for lawyers; we can get in on the front end of a whole new practice area and shape it. That’s really exciting as well as humbling. From my perspective, lawyers cannot go it alone either. They need the help of other companies like FireEye and TR to understand what is going on and how to manage their legal obligations.
JB: Last question, Christy — for all those Biglaw associates and partners thinking of taking the plunge, tell me about your experience on the alt.legal side
CW: Frankly, it was scary at first.
You were pretty convincing to get me to join you, despite my own parents telling me I was nuts for leaving the safety blanket that the associate track provided – one that I had worked so hard to get during the financial collapse!
But as soon as I left, my personality (and literal color in my face) returned. I hadn’t realized how much of myself I had lost in the few short years I was there until I joined this company. (Remind me again how much this therapy session costs?)
On the complete opposite side, you have to find your own voice and style to succeed in a business like this. Every day you have to ask yourself how you can help your clients in ways they have never tried before (and enjoy trying to convince lawyers to try something new!).
At the end of the day, the alternative side of the legal business has been so much fun. I highly recommend associates finding something in the business of law they consider fun, and exploring it. It’s out there, I know it.
Joe Borstein is a Global Director with Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services, delivering Pangea3 award-winning legal outsourcing services and employing over 1800 full-time legal, compliance, and technology professionals across the globe. He and his co-author Ed Sohn each spent over half a decade as associates in BigLaw and were classmates at Penn Law. (The views expressed in their columns are their own.)
Joe manages a global team dedicated to counseling law firm and corporate clients on how to best leverage Thomson Reuters legal professionals to improve legal results, cut costs, raise profits, and have a social life. He is a frequent speaker on global trends in the legal industry and, specifically, how law firms are leveraging those trends to become more profitable. If you are interested in entrepreneurship and the delivery of legal services, please reach out to Joe directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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