Eversheds' new U.S. COO focused on 'value' and connection

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

(Reuters) - Eversheds Sutherland last week became the latest major law firm to add a new C-level operations position in the U.S.

U.S. COO Dwight Floyd said he seeks to build connectedness among the various business departments he will oversee, from HR to technology and information services. The ultimate goal? "It's all about value," he said.

The former biologist-turned-lawyer and executive was most recently U.S. pricing and value chief at the 3,000-lawyer global firm, born out of a 2017 merger between London-based Eversheds and Atlanta-founded Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Eversheds Sutherland now has eight U.S. offices among 74 globally.

Atlanta-based Floyd spoke with Reuters about how to best leverage the mega firm's knowledge and power.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

REUTERS: How do you think your background, which has included legal project and knowledge management positions at other firms pre-Eversheds, will help you as COO? And do you expect others with similar backgrounds to continue stepping into law firm COO roles?

FLOYD: I am definitely not your traditional COO of a law firm or a big company. I was a biologist before I was a lawyer, I was a practicing litigator for years. What I did as a litigator was, I was always in tune with technology and technological issues. Probably, in part because of my scientific background, I was always interested in looking at problems through these different lenses and across the firm and trying to solve, not just the problem that was right in front of us, but sometimes the bigger problem that it was a part of.

To answer your [second] question, I do think there's a call for that, because as firms have evolved, clients have increased their expectations for firms to respond to these multi-level, multi-faceted, multi-year sorts of problems. And I don't mean just solving legal problems in front of them. I mean helping them with their business, which is not a one-off sort of solution, as they [already] expected that from their law firms. The law firms have to respond to that, and have a much broader view of how to do that. And that includes leveraging the resources that we have, the experts that we have among our business professionals, in each of their separate areas to bring all that knowledge, information, data, answers together, to bring that to bear for our partners, and ultimately, our clients.

REUTERS: What else are you paying attention to in the evolving relationship between law firms and clients?

FLOYD: It's all about value. Value is not just about what something costs. It's what you get for what you're paying. So [there's] demand for increased value from clients, whether it's to have their law firm be more efficient, or to do more with less, or to have different price points for different sorts of solutions, or to have more cohesive long term strategies for particular types of business problems. Those are all things that are not simply reactive from a law firm. It's not simply that a client comes to the law firm and says, ‘Can you solve this problem?’ And the law firm says, ‘Yeah, I'll do it for X dollars per hour,’ and then they try to solve it. It's much more comprehensive than that. And law firms have had to adapt to that.

REUTERS: Is there anything at Eversheds you might focus on to leverage a new technology to bring that efficiency or collaboration?

FLOYD: We're thinking about, call it 'the law firm of the future,' or where we're going to be three years, five years, 10 years. We've got to be better about communicating and collaborating internally.

We've got to make better use of our space. With the pandemic, there's been all sorts of questions across all markets about how the industry is going to use space going forward. And that's true within a law firm as well. And that's one of our biggest expenses, our space, our physical footprint.

And then, of course, there's just the data itself that now permeates every single facet of the law firm, and really any business. With the data that's there, [there are questions of] how we can leverage the data from the past, how we can better manage the data of the present and in the future, again, to bring good answers and efficient answers to our clients.

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com