by David Kinnear
One of the many nice things about High Performance Counsel is getting to meet and chat with some of the smartest people in the modern legal industry. Actually, it’s what we do. So it was a particular pleasure recently to spend some time with Jason Parkman, the very talented CEO of Mitratech.
I asked Jason how he feels about the space and “how excited he is about the future of law on a scale of 0 to 10”. Pondering a moment, and with a smile, his considered response was “8” – not out of lack of enthusiasm but in respect for the sheer scale of the future. In 20 years, he noted how he has never seen such a powerful combination of people and circumstance looking for change. For Jason, the last 6 years have been spent building Mitratech into the powerhouse that it has already become. But be wary of applying labels too quickly. The most exciting growth chapters are surely ahead given the smart moves they’re making in the accelerating Legal Ops space. Consider the recent release of Team Connect Essentials – a masterful play into the middle market, which constitutes such a large part of the overall legal market.
You know what you’re getting with Jason – he brings clear vision and calls things with specificity. It’s a business view of law, which is consistent with growing calls for law to be “run like a business”. Says Jason: “What was good enough – is not good enough any more.” He speaks with authority to the need for – and expectation of – predictability in legal operations. Quietly the needle moved in the last couple of years, in particular, and he speaks of a marketplace “hungry for new options”.
When pressed on the top driver in legal leadership spend decisions – that is, is it qualitative or quantitative considerations that weigh heaviest in the scales for buyers – he notes that cost is still #1. But it’s in good company with other factors, such as the growing need for solutions to help navigate and manage complex legal and regulatory compliance.
Observes Jason: “General Counsel are under growing pressure to do more with less and make what they have go further. There is much greater visibility to the C-Suite these days and higher fiscal expectations. As Jason terms it, “Clients need help to keep costs from exploding as demands and requirements expand dramatically.”
What does a typical client look like? Mitratech works with 30% of the Fortune 500, which is not only impressive – it provides a unique level of experience with which to come to the table in support of their growing client base. Knowledge, know-how – combined with real experience and resources – makes a powerful combination. Their bench strength brings comfort to clients – knowing they’re not the first or the only one. No-one wants to be the test case when the stakes are as high as they are today. Clients cover the full spectrum of size – some having only a small handful in their legal teams – while others have thousands.
So is there a common thread? I asked Jason what he hears most consistently across the client portfolio and when speaking to organizations in the marketplace – aside the demand to manage costs. The answer, in Jason’s words is “to provide a single source of truth.” He also noted how other areas of Corporate have made greater advances in this regard – and now, clearly, it is the turn of Legal. The problem this solves? By getting visibility to the truth, clients are empowered to drill down into efficiencies, costs, and answer essential questions like how many matters are open and active.
So is the marketplace a garden full of roses? I asked Jason where they find the most push-back. What are the resistance points they come across. In response, Jason spoke to the struggle that is being experienced across the entire legal spectrum – the tug between the old and the new. While many organizations are ready to press forward, there is still a large measure of reserve amongst organizations struggling to see how they look and how they work in the “new world”. As Jason puts it: “Fundamentally, there is a shift occurring from legal being viewed only as a profession to legal as a business. This cultural and operational shift in mindset and operations can be especially tough for law firms to navigate. For some, it takes time to fully understand the role that they can and will fulfill in the future state.”
Here at High Performance Counsel, we run a popular series called #TopOfMind – unearthing the thinking of top industry leaders on what is “top of mind” for them, right now, in the marketplace – the real deal, no group think. I asked Jason what is top of mind for him right now as he runs one of the most successful companies in the legal industry. His response was clear and upbeat: “How to help clients break down walls around legal and get rid of the traditional barriers that can confine growth and opportunity.”
Similarly, I asked Jason to look ahead to 2019 and share what he thinks will be the “thing”. He speaks to the demise of introspection and the emergence of connection: “a shift we will witness of well run legal departments moving from a inward focus to outward – along with greater intergation within the business itself.”
As successful as he is, Jason stays humble. No question, he is a man on a mission at the helm of Mitratech and this organization is making moves. But his leadership style is not self-promoting; it is pleasantly focused on the success he can drive for others. I asked about his inspiration as a leader – to which, he shares candidly the joy he gets from helping clients and team members succeed. His most proud achievement outside of being a great husband and father – the teams he has grown and the careers he has helped launch. A good day at the office he notes, is “helping people achieve their potential and helping clients succeed.”
So if he wasn’t doing this, what would Jason be doing. He has a twinkle in his eye for being a ski instructor and a mountain bike guide. Don’t be surprised if you meet him on the trails but ski hard and pedal fast – this CEO knows what he is about.
Our time in conversation with Jason was thoroughly enjoyable. He’s a modern leader with a great appreciation of both clients’ needs – and the nurture of his own team. One to keep an eye on, for sure.