If you’re looking for bold, innovative ideas that can save a law firm significant dollars, you’ll be hard-pressed to top one approach used by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Martin Metz, Chief Information Officer, was part of a team of Pillsbury’s top management who evaluated moving many of the firm’s non-legal functions from its largest cities to a less-expensive location. The thought being … you can leverage technology to handle many administrative functions like IT, Finance, Document Production, Marketing and other support services from just about anywhere; those departments don’t have to be collocated with legal professionals. Personally, I think the intent to put administrative and support people “in the cloud” is a smart and clever way to save some big dollars.
I was able to learn about the initiative first hand while sitting in on part of a Legal CIO Roundtable meeting. Atlanta is where the roundtable group usually meets; but the group decided they would instead go to Nashville for a special “show-and-tell field trip” hosted my Metz to visit Pillsbury’s new Global Operations Center.
Nashville was selected over competing cities because of its central location, educational strength, cost of living, skilled workforce and overall quality of living. The firm was comfortable that it could successfully conduct global operations supporting Pillsbury’s 15 worldwide offices from the Nashville site. Nashville was also considered one of the best cities for attracting existing staff who would be willing and able to relocate.
Managing the people side of the project was an important key in making the move successful. Moving so many positions away from the two coasts was bound to face challenges. Each staff member was given an opportunity to relocate, but many were faced with their own challenges, like housing values, family situations, perceived cultural changes, career interests and individual preferences. Pillsbury paid for trips to introduce Nashville to help staff and their families so that they could develop their own sense of how a move might affect them, but also offered transition packages to help those electing not to relocate.
Today, the Global Operations Center is home to more than 160 people supporting Pillsbury’s professional services for Information Technology, Finance & Accounting, Marketing, Conflicts and Document Production. The management team is encouraged by the initial results, notably: efficient operations across all functional areas; a motivated and strong workforce; noticeably lower costs for real estate and labor; and a fairly rapid payback period.
Kudos to the Pillsbury team for delivering on the promise of an innovative idea. Given the cost of real estate and office space in some major metro areas, it’s likely the ROI could make this a viable approach for a number of firms, including those significantly smaller than Pillsbury.