Note: This transcript has been adjusted to improve readability. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcribers. The context and more than 95% of the actual transcript have been preserved. We strongly encourage our listeners to listen to the audio.
Nicole Giantonio: Welcome to the Elevate. Together. Podcast: Voices of Change in the Business of Law
Hello, this is Nicole Giantonio, the Head of Global Marketing at Elevate. The podcast episode you’re about to hear is part of our impact series, featuring Elevate customers implementing transformative change. In this episode, Elevate’s Stephen Allen talks with the President and CEO of Lex Mundi Helena Samaha. Lex Mundi is the world’s largest law firm network, providing information to its member firms about developments in local and global law. They recently introduced Equisphere for an aligned and enhanced worldwide customer experience. Elevate has the pleasure of providing consulting support to Lex Mundi.
Stephen Allen: Welcome to the Elevate Podcast. I’m going to be talking innovation and strategy with Helena Samaha, the CEO of Lex Mundi. My name’s Stephen Allen. I am Vice President of Get Sh*t Done at Elevate, and I deal with law firms and law departments in helping device strategy and innovative solutions. But, for the much more interesting introduction, I’ll pass it over to Helena.
Helena Samaha: Thank you, Stephen. So my name is Helena Samaha, I am the President and CEO of Lex Mundi, and I’m based in London. Lex Mundi is an international organisation. We are a membership organisation, bringing together law firms from 100 countries and more. We provide a range of services and products to them to collaborate and join up as they serve international clients. I am a lawyer by background. Even though I’m in a managerial role right now, I’m a French and UK qualified lawyer, and I have spent several years working both in private practice and serving as a general counsel.
SA: Great, thank you. We’ve known each other for probably longer than we both care to mention. Still, we had a brief chat about this before we started the call, and, as you know, as those listening will know, Elevate works with a lot of organisations around strategy and change transformation. Sometimes that change is kind of existential, the “Why” or the “What” of an organisation, and sometimes it’s more tactical, kind of “how can we do what” we call that the “job to be done.” I know you’ve got a really interesting viewpoint on innovation and strategy and how to approach that. Do you mind just telling us a bit about that view and what you’ve done and seen in past roles?
HS: Sure, I think I would start by saying I’ve been fortunate in that wherever I’ve landed in a role, I have needed to bring about some change. But I’ve been fortunate to join companies that are successful and on a growing track, and I think that’s an important starting point because if you come in as a leader into an organisation that is about to fall off a cliff, then your perspective on changes and what you need to do is a very different than what I’ve experienced. And in a way, it’s almost more challenging when you have a successful company that you’re trying to make even more successful and redirect and grow. If a company is about to fall off the cliff, then anything you do will be good, pretty much. It’s going to be better. So, I have embraced sort of incremental change. I think that a lot of the situations that I have come into have required buy-in from multiple stakeholders to affect that change and that growth and mindset, and so I am a great believer in working with people, in persuasion, in buy-in and inclusion to affect long-term and lasting change.
I’ve had to do that in several organisations, the first time I was in a senior in-house legal position at the Virgin Group. I joined Virgin in the ’90s, and the group at group level, at the shareholder level, and the group was about to undertake quite a substantial international expansion. So I was part of the team that helped make that happen. When I joined OSN in Dubai as general counsel, the company had just done a merger and completed a post-merger integration and wanted to get ready for a potential listing in London. And so you can imagine the sheer amount of work and change required there. Always the context was one of positive growth, ambitious plans, exciting developments.
SA: Right, and now you’re at Lex Mundi, which is a very successful organisation, but I know, having worked and talked with you, that that itself is looking to transform and change and evolve. What does it mean for you today at Lex Mundi, in your role as President CEO?
HS: I joined nine months before this crisis started. If I had to bet all my money that this would happen, I wouldn’t have been able to, and I know that many people feel the same way. And so I didn’t expect to have this to manage in my first year. But in reality, as you said, Lex Mundi is a successful and established organisation, and importantly, our members are incredibly successful firms in their jurisdictions. What that meant is observing what’s been going on for some time actually in the legal services industry, and the crisis is accelerating that, how do we remain high value and very relevant to our clients?
We’ve been thrilled to work with the team at Elevate on our strategic plan, which is coming together very nicely now. What we’re seeing is how to do each change and bring our members along the journey. We are not a law firm, but our members are, so really the change that we need to effect and the direction of travel relevant to us impacts the entire legal services industry, and we are a lot more digital than we were ourselves this time last year. We have focused our energy on two particular areas of work that we do with our clients, and our clients, remember, are the member firms, and that’s how do we continue to bring value in today’s world to them, to their talents. Our focus is on talent and technology solutions for our member firms and their clients as well. How does what we do for our members translate into a value-add for their clients? The technology solutions piece is very important there, and we have a lot of energy directed into our new initiative called Equisphere. We’re starting to get some fantastic results there.
But I do think it’s too soon to call where the dust is going to settle on this crisis. A lot of the people we talked to are very focused on their day-to-day working arrangements. There is a lot of concern around team cohesion, company culture, and new people joining companies in a remote world. At the same time, there’s a recognition that the legal services industry has been perhaps overly conservative about the way people work and accepting flexibility and empowerment and moving away from a traditional way of working. So we’ll see where the dust will settle, but I hope that we will emerge stronger by reflecting on all the things that we did well and that our clients appreciate. We should continue to do those things and adapt new ways of thinking and doing things into our day-to-day work because we’ve learned now that there are things that work well and that our talent appreciates and values.