Efficiency Engines: How Managed Services are Building Systems for Corporate Legal Work

My research on the legal profession has enabled me to study rainmakers up close. Jane Allen, founder of Counsel on Call, based in Nashville, Tennessee, certainly fits one of the profiles.

Allen is affable and easy to talk to, getting high marks as a conversationalist because she asks good questions and seldom has to talk about herself. Her eyes and body language convey that she is listening and interested. As the dialogue continues, you share your problems and concerns. Allen then provides some keen insights that make them seem smaller and more tractable. Thus, in the most natural and sincere way, Allen becomes indispensable to your decision-making process.

This is how she goes through life. And, as it turns out, some of the people she talks to have legal problems. In the late 1990s, Allen had her own problems to solve. She had the resumé of a successful corporate lawyer—an honors graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law, executive editor of the school’s Kentucky Law Journal, clerkship with a federal judge. But the arrival of her third child made the demands of her full-time law firm practice with Trauger & Tuke in Nashville incompatible with her personal goals. She negotiated a new work track in which she obtained a more flexible schedule in exchange for a reduced hourly rate for clients.

This new work arrangement had a big appeal to other female attorneys. Being a natural problem-solver, Allen decided to start a business called Counsel on Call in 2000 that made these capable lawyers available to other law firms to help with peaks in workflow or fill a temporary position.

A few months after opening, Allen got a phone call from Cathy Sowers, then the head of litigation for health care giant HCA, one of the largest employers in Nashville.

“Jane, you’ve missed your market,” Sowers said. “More than law firms, legal departments need high-quality specialized lawyers to cover things like family leave or staff a temporary surge in work.”

Almost instantly, Allen’s small-firm practice was transformed into a business that managed a large stable of high-quality, on-demand lawyers.

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