Crafty Counsel, together with partners LexisNexis and Obelisk, takes a deeper look at Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs).

  • What exactly are they? 
  • Why would you use them?
  • What will they do for you and your team?
  • How can using ALSPs help with driving innovation?
  • What about the budget?

All these questions, and more, are answered in a six-part video series in which Jamie Fraser, CEO and Founder of NineNineSix Solutions and General Counsel at Wedo, interviews industry experts to delve into the ALSP landscape.In the third video in the series, Jamie speaks to Dana Denis-Smith, Founder of Obelisk, about the in-house legal department’s strategy.

How much time are legal departments spending on making tactical fixes and firefighting versus pursuing a longer-term strategy?

Dana says defining long-term strategy is always difficult in any organisation, even for the CEO. For Dana it is important to “keep things simple” and answer key questions such as:

  1. What do we need to do?
  2. What do we need to focus on?

It is important to identify and work on the most important tasks that move the dial for the overall strategy of the company.

Traditionally legal departments have been known for being reactive as opposed to taking leadership in a proactive way. But, Dana says there is a new breed of General Counsel who realise they have to illustrate that they are relevant, and part of that is aligning the legal department’s strategy with the overall business strategy.

Dana says that there is a transition to a more strategic way of thinking for the legal function, although it is quite early on. She says there is an exciting opportunity for in-house lawyers to draw on the full spectrum of their skill sets to show the value they bring to the business.

How can other suppliers and providers support the in-house legal departments in mirroring the strategy of the wider business?

Dana says that in the last decade the legal industry has seen a rise in a wide range of new providers, new law firms and technology tools. These can all assist in-house teams in supporting the wider businesses they are part of.

But, this was not always the case.

In the past in-house teams didn’t always have much of a choice and would often have to go with a law firm to meet their needs for external legal support.

She says now there are many options and legal departments can mix and match and choose exactly what suppliers can best help them with specific aspects of their work.

Dana uses an example of an Obelisk client who decided their main function as an in-house legal team was to support an acquisition effort.

All other legal work, for example employment matters and commercial contracts, could be supported externally.

The question the legal department client needed to answer was how to best support the direction of travel for their organisation.

And the answer was to outsource anything that didn’t directly relate to supporting the acquisition effort.

How can ALSPs support in-house legal teams in defining the legal department’s strategy and help them along the way?

As ALSPs are businesses themselves, many of them have spent time and energy clearly defining their own strategy and value proposition and can assist in-house legal teams with theirs.

ALSPs would spend time thinking about the following:

  1. Why am I coming into the market?
  2. What do I have to offer?

ALSPs have a clear business focus and realise that to be effective they need to support legal teams in strategically aligning with the wider business.

The best ALSPs are consultative and realise that legal departments want to maintain a choice in where they source external support from. So, although the support of one ALSP may be preferred in a particular area, there may be a different service provider that could help meet a different need.

Dana suggests that it is important to discuss the legal department’s strategy with the client and ask what they need help with and consult on what services they could get from other providers. In consulting with the client, the ALSP can advise on three key considerations:

1)   getting good value,

1)   good delivery of the service,  

2)   and help decide on a good turnaround time.

Crafty Counsel has created a guide to ALSPs, which is available at The guide provides a map of this new landscape. There are many providers out there offering different kinds of services, from contract repapering to flexible resourcing.

We would love to hear your feedback. ​​We want to hear your thoughts about the ALSP Guide and your experiences with ALSPs.