Risk Update

Law Firm Risk Staffing Trends — Survey Color Commentary on Conflicts, Plus Panel Webinar Recording

Law.com brings us color commentary on the recently published Intapp risk staffing survey: “Checking for Conflicts Becomes a Team Sport at Growing Law Firms” —

  • “Top-down approaches to conflicts checks are increasingly a thing of the past at law firms as responsibility for analyzing potential conflicts of interest is shifting away from partners to teams of professional analysts, new research from legal tech company Intapp suggests.”
  • “Like many staff roles in the legal industry, those responsible for conflicts analysis are evolving into a specialized team of professionals, often with four-year degrees or J.D.s, rather than clerical personnel serving at the discretion of practice partners, according to survey authors. A similar evolution can be seen in the upskilling of executive assistants and attorney resource specialists in Big Law.”
  • “‘We’re stepping away from an administrative view of that role and talking more substantively about bringing legally trained folks in, whether that’s folks who are certified paralegals or whether that’s lawyers,’ said Makaylia Roberts Binkley, director of risk consulting for Intapp and former director of risk management for Ballard Spahr.”
  • “Survey data shows that practice partners saw their share of the responsibility for analyzing potential conflicts go from 48% in 2018 to 26% in 2020, and associates saw theirs remain steady at 29% then 30% during the same period; meanwhile, the proportion of conflicts analysts, conflicts lawyers and conflicts managers responsible for the same duty grew from 54% to 70%, 49% to 67% and 9% to 42%, respectively.”
  • “These trends reflect the ‘professionalization’ of the conflicts analyst role, giving those staff positions greater clout in determining whether or not a conflict exists, and progress toward an “end-to-end conflicts resolution team,” survey authors said.”
  • “Risk assessment has historically been viewed by law firm fee-earners as a liability, stymying the growth of their business and client relationships, said James Edwards, Intapp’s director of client experience. But Edwards said the shift in responsibility to professionals specializing in conflicts analysis allows them to have more involvement in a firm’s strategic priorities.”
  • “‘Not only are you being responsive to your professional liability requirements, but you’re ensuring the firm is more profitable because you’re ensuring that … you’re not going to be faced with fee write-downs because you weren’t accommodating clients’ requests,’ Edwards said.”
  • “A divide can also be seen in the divergence in conflicts analysts’ professional experience between firms with fewer than 500 lawyers and those with more; data shows small and midsize firms are staffing the conflicts analyst role with professionals who have double the experience than those at large and enterprise firms, which authors chalk up to newly implemented staff roles with higher educational requirements.”

For those who missed the live panel webinar, featuring commentary from Allison Martin Rhodes (Deputy General Counsel at Sheppard Mullin), Brenna Greenwald (Regional Counsel, Head of Business Acceptance at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer U.S.) and Meg Block (Intapp Vice President, Risk Consulting), that’s now available here: