David Cambria, the so-called “Godfather” of legal operations, made big news recently when he announced he was leaving his in-house post at Fortune 50 food and agriculture giant ADM to join $2.7 billion megafirm Baker McKenzie as Global Director of Legal Operations. You could hear the BigLaw jaws drop. Cambria served for almost five years as ADM’s global director of ops for law, compliance and government relations, earning a boatload of recognition for efforts such as the ADM Law Firm Alliance, which slashed the number of outside counsel serving ADM from more than 700 to 25.
In an interesting post on his always interesting blog, Legal Evolution, Prof. William Henderson of Indiana University examined the Cambria move, which Baker described as bringing the “voice of the client” into the firm. Henderson gives the experiment a decent chance of success largely because Baker has the global footprint and financial resources to be a genuine “legal integrator” that successfully executes what Henderson calls a “traverse the pyramid” model. That means the firm can handle big, sophisticated, “bespoke” projects such as bet-the-farm disputes and global megadeals alongside high-volume, commoditized work. And that, according to Henderson, is why the Godfather accepted Baker’s offer. “The strategy just might work.”