Connect started in early 2016, the com-
pany had a preferred provider network
of more than 200 firms. But there were
pain points. “The department had spent
a lot of time and effort putting together
our network—there was an RFP process,
we negotiated rates and discounts and
reached understandings with more than
200 firms,” says GE’s law firm pricing and
panel management leader Christopher
Ende, who joined later in 2016. “But there
were always questions: Which firm is in
the network? What’s in our agreement?
How well are they doing? We needed a way
to share this information.”
As they started building, GE’s team
realized that the tool could provide max-
imum value if it was built to provide infor-
mation on the attorney’s terms, like “I
need a firm approved to do product liabil-
ity litigation in the U.S. with an office in
GE’s team built a simple search engine,
with fields for practice area and countries
where they are approved to do work with
GE and local offices. The firms that ful-
fill the search requirements are shown on
a dashboard that also includes the firm’s
matter volume, current year-to-date
and four-year spend, weighted-average
rate for partners and associates, diversity
score, volume discount percentages and
thresholds and GE user feedback. Click-
ing on any particular firm name provides
more detailed information about the firm,
including AFA usage, top GE users, and
fee spend by rank.
A ‘SMILEY’ FOR DATA
No dashboard, no matter how simple and
beautiful it is, is worth much without good
data. Much of Select Connect’s quantitative data is pulled automatically from GE’s
electronic billing tools, but populating—
and simplifying—some of the more qualitative information took some creativity.
For one thing, some of the information
about GE’s law firms changes frequently,
so Select Connect was built as a two-way
collaborative platform with the firms.
Law firms can enter information that
appears on the firms’ home page within
the system, such as key contacts, locations
and value-adds. “One thing we were fre-
quently hearing from our firms was con-
cern about whether lawyers across GE
understand the value and expertise they
provide,” says Ende. “So we allow them to
describe it in their own words.” The firms
have the ability to keep this up in real time.
The real genius of Select Connect, however, is how it collects and displays information related to firms’ performance. “We wanted to get away from
once-a-year surveys. They don’t capture
people’s thoughts in real time and are very
burdensome. We wanted real-time regular feedback,” says Ende. They were also
looking to put an end to all the “Has anyone ever used the Bird, McHale and Parish firm in Boston?” emails that were constantly f lying around the department.
The t wo tricks that power Select Connect’s feedback mechanism are triggering and simplicity. Whenever an attorney approves an invoice (over a certain
threshold), closes a matter or when a matter reaches its anniversary date, he or she
immediately receives an email survey.
“The surveys arrive much closer in time to
when the work was performed, so we k now
they have recently thought about the mat-
ters,” says Ende. The survey asks only one
simple question to gauge satisfaction with
the firm’s performance, with only three
options (emojis, actually) to choose from:
smiley, neutral or frowny.
While the attorney may stop there, the
system is designed to collect much more
detail in just a few more seconds. Once
an emoji is clicked, one additional screen
appears with a word bank. If “smiley”
had been selected, a list of words come up
reflecting traits that imply good perfor-
mance, and the attorney simply clicks on
all that apply. The same if “frowny” had
been selected, though with different (neg-
ative) words. For neutrals, both banks
appear, and when a positive trait is clicked,
the obverse negative trait is grayed-out.
The program is still in its early stages,
but GE is already getting a high response
rate, which is expected to rise as more
attorneys realized how quick and easy the
survey is to take. The surveys work equally
well on desktop and mobile devices. “I
realized that when I take a class at the gym,
I get a quick survey right away. Same after I
travel using Expedia or get out of an Uber.
We were inspired by these companies to fit
our system into how our users’ lives actually work,” says Ende.
Whenever I speak at conferences or
sit down with in-house counsel, I always
preach data and innovation. It’s easy for
me to do from up here in my ivory tower,
which is why there are always some who
roll their eyes. “We are not a big law
department, we don’t have the resources.
What can we do?” And while it’s true that
they might not have the resources of a GE,
they can do what a GE has done: Gain real
value by keeping it simple.
Brad Blickstein is principal at the Blickstein
Group and is the publisher of the Annual Law
Department Operations Survey, which is now
in its ninth year.
GE SELECT CONNECT IS DESIGNED TO MOVE PAST THE
TRADITIONAL MODEL OF SELECTING OUTSIDE COUNSEL.
LEGAL OPERATIONS: GE SELECT CONNECT