modern technological conveniences such as dual
monitors and standing desks. The group also
banded together to volunteer at local charity
events. “Those activities helped us to bond,
engage, and get to know one another,” says
Williams, noting that these activities and others
have placed the legal department in the 97th
percentile related to employee engagement.
The Contracts Division exemplifies value and
innovation from the inside out. Located within
the Transactions Practice Group, the Contracts
Division is a model unique among U.S. health
care organizations: This one-stop shop guides
the request, approval, drafting, review, signature,
administration, and compliance review for
every SSM Health contract, including physician
employment, vendor relationships, and real
estate. The brainchild of Assistant General
Counsel Christopher Wintrode, the Contracts
Division is organized by service lines and uses
self-service tools and forms on an intranet site,
as well as electronic signatures, to streamline
its contract review process. Improved legal staff
efficiency reduced contract review time from
eight business days to two; increased contract
completions by 127 percent (more than 8,500
annually); and earned the department the SSM
Innovators Award. A seven-step process guides
the Division’s work.
Williams leveraged new technologies to
establish a culture of innovation within the
department, which is an entirely paperless
work environment. The department utilizes an
electronic contract management database to
organize contracts and a cloud-based legal
practice management program, Serengeti, to
organize legal matters and approve invoices.
Williams notes that simplicity is key to avoid
being overwhelmed by the technology: “The
[Enterprise Legal Management] program
comes with 400 options. We learned to turn
off everything but the bare minimum. We use
three templates,” she says.
In just two short years, the internal legal
department at SSM Health has reduced its
overall legal expenses by more than 65 percent
through the insourcing of legal talent and
improved control of external legal counsel.
Outside counsel must participate in a standard
fee schedule with safeguards to prevent fees
from exceeding clearly defined maximums on
hourly rates and total project costs.
Moving from a fully outsourced model, SSM Health created its first
in-house legal department, driving down costs 65 percent, improving
its contracting process, and ensuring customer satisfaction within
the health system.