Stikeman Elliott LLP and Siemens Canada Limited engaged in a legal operations and technology "reverse" secondment. A member of the Siemens Canada legal team joined Stikeman Elliott for two months and worked on various legal operations projects. Both organizations benefited from this novel initiative and we think that others may want to try something similar! Shawna-Leigh Moulton, Director, Governance and Legal Operations at Siemens Canada and Andrea Alliston, partner at Stikeman Elliott share their perspectives on this experience. (10 minutes, 28 seconds)
How did the secondment come about?
Andrea Alliston: The project started when Shawna-Leigh and Richard Brait phoned me with a proposal in connection with a role we were recruiting for.
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: We had seen Stikeman Elliott's advertisement in the ORs for a Legal Technology Applications Lawyers and called Andrea to suggest that she fill the position with someone from our legal team while she recruited the permanent candidate. We were just starting our Legal Operations initiative and we were looking for opportunities to gain insight into knowledge management best practices as well as experience with implementing innovative legal technology applications. It took creative thinking on the part of both Stikeman Elliott and Siemens Canada to envision how a short-term secondment like this could work.
How was the candidate selected?
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: We had an outline of the key activities that would be part of the secondment, including a pretty good idea of the actual development activities the secondee would assist with, and what legal technology tools he or she would help test. So, we were able to provide a detailed overview of the position to everyone in the legal department. The two people who were most interested in the secondment were both well-placed to learn from it. We also looked at the future benefit to our department – it was important to us to have a secondee who would use his or her learning to help advance our legal operations agenda.
Andrea Alliston: Siemens provided us with the resumes of the candidates they had selected for consideration for the position and we interviewed two. Going through a formal interview process was beneficial for both us and the candidates. It provided us with an opportunity to assess their interest in legal technology and KM, and it provided the candidates with the opportunity to meet us directly and understand the role in more detail. After the interviews we conferred with Shawna-Leigh and Richard and selected Grant Jackman, who was then the Contracts Manager at Siemens, for the position.
What prep work did you do before the secondment began?
Andrea Alliston: The secondment was very short so it was important that we had a clear list of objectives and goals that would meet the needs of both organizations. Shawna-Leigh and I worked closely together to structure a program that would ensure a balance between KM operations, building legal applications and being exposed to new legal technology, including a detailed list of deliverables that Grant would produce during his time at the firm. Members of the KM team also devised a "KM bootcamp" for Grant which provided in-depth instruction and information on KM best practices covering topics such as enterprise search, content management, taxonomy management, and innovative legal technologies.
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: Another important element of the secondment for us was to have Grant assist Stikeman and ourselves in preparation for a Legal Design Workshop that we were planning to hold. The intent of the workshop was to use the Stikeman methodology for legal process design in helping us come up with ideas for our knowledge management approach in the Siemens legal department. Grant learned the Stikeman approach and then worked with Andrea and our team to design a workshop tailored to our legal team.
What were the biggest benefits of the initiative?
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: Siemens had an opportunity to use Stikeman Elliott's existing technology, see its capabilities and gain real user experience beyond the typical vendor demo. Members of the KM team provided training and guidance to Grant on knowledge engineering and building and testing legal applications. He was able to gain hands on experience and test those skills on some of Siemens own use cases as well as identify future use cases for the company. For example, Stikeman tested a popular contract analysis tool and as part of this we provided Siemens contracts to be used in the testing. We were thus able to evaluate the tool not only in the typical M&A due diligence application, but also for use in our commercial contracting activities with suppliers and customers.
Andrea Alliston: As a result of the secondment, progress was made on several deliverables in the firm including a document automation project and an expert system project. Grant also played a key role in proof of concepts for two new technologies that the firm was evaluating. Siemens gained exposure to these new technologies and was able to assess them without going through its own proof of concept and we benefited from having our client's perspective on the software.
Was there anything unexpected during the secondment?
Andrea Alliston: Embedding Grant into our KM team meant exposing him to all aspects of our KM function and allowing him to see the day to day challenges, frustrations and successes in developing and running an effective KM program. That was new and novel for us.
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: We were excited by the prospect of having our employee exposed to a professional legal operations environment, but really didn't appreciate just how advanced a leading law firm would be in this area. The weekly substantive briefings that Grant received by Andrea and her team were both practically and intellectually amazing. I think the gap between in-house and laws firms in this area is much wider than most in-house practitioners realize.
What has happened since the secondment?
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: This experience has had a significant impact on Grant's career development. He is new to Legal Operations and was able to immerse himself in KM and legal technology for a two month period which accelerated his learning curve and skills development in the area. It also confirmed for him what an exciting and promising career is possible in this area.
Andrea Alliston: Having someone in a new role on a short-term basis allowed us to evaluate the position, reassess our staffing needs, refine responsibilities, and ensure we were recruiting the right talent. Taking what we learned during the secondment, we revisited our needs, restructured the role we were recruiting for and were able to promote from within the KM team.
Would you do it again?
Shawna-Leigh Moulton: Definitely. I would do it myself if my General Counsel (and Andrea) would let me!
Andrea Alliston: Absolutely! Although I think we were spoiled by our first experience. Having the right client to partner with is critical, as is having the right person join our team.
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