The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has selected St. Louis-based agricultural lender Rabo AgriFinance and Thompson Coburn as 2019 Value Champions, an honor that recognizes “best-in-class” innovations that drive value and dramatically improve efficiencies within a corporate law department.
Ten corporate law departments from around the world were recognized by the ACC, along with five external partners. Thompson Coburn was the only law firm recognized in 2019 for its role helping a client achieve significant improvements in a business-critical legal function.
Rabo AgriFinance and Thompson Coburn were honored for a unique collaboration that since 2016 has allowed the national agricultural lender to realize significant time and cost savings by outsourcing its loan documentation and legal review process to Thompson Coburn.
Other 2019 Value Champions include Deutsche Bank, Toyota Motors North America, McAfee and MassMutual. The champions range from banking to mining companies, and are based in Australia, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, and the United States.
“To be considered best-in-class, a law department must be willing to tear down their operational model and start again from scratch,” said Catherine J. Moynihan, associate vice president of legal management services at ACC. “These Champions did just that. In response to strategic demands, they employed a variety of process improvement techniques and creative partnership models to automate and streamline legal services. Their agility is breathtaking.”
Managed under a monthly flat fee and supported by Thompson Coburn attorneys working onsite at Rabo AgriFinance’s St. Louis headquarters, the arrangement has allowed Rabo AgriFinance to realize more than 10% savings in legal costs and achieve a 70% reduction in turnaround time for initial loan legal reviews, while reducing documentation errors. The lender has developed predictability metrics that allow it to better plan for high-demand periods of lending activity.
“This project was a huge undertaking for our team and Thompson Coburn, but it has had a remarkable impact on our ability to provide service to our customers – the thousands of agriculture producers and agribusinesses that we serve each day,” said Philip Kirkpatrick, Regional General Counsel - North America for Rabobank. Rabo AgriFinance is a U.S. subsidiary of Rabobank, the world’s largest food and agricultural lender and the 26th largest bank in the world.
“We confronted the weaknesses of our previous process, found a trusted partner in Thompson Coburn, and embarked on a radically different service model for this key business function. Today we are faster, more efficient, more accurate, and more responsive to the needs of our business units. It’s been a remarkable journey, and we’re not done yet — we are still improving,” Kirkpatrick added.
As part of the collaboration, Thompson Coburn regularly handles 35-60 loans each month for Rabo AgriFinance’s relationships in excess of $12.5 million. The team generates monthly reports to evaluate the process and measure results so adjustments can be made. Leaders of the Thompson Coburn and Rabo AgriFinance teams meet regularly to ensure the project is continuing smoothly and the outsourcing relationship is delivering against expectations.
“This collaboration really pushed us to think differently about client relationships and about our internal processes — and those were not easy changes to make,” said Mark Kaltenrieder, a commercial finance partner at Thompson Coburn who manages the Thompson Coburn’s relationship with Rabo AgriFinance along with partners Krissa Lubben and Cheryl Kelly. “But by really investing in this collaboration and approaching every angle of it from the question, ‘What would be best for Rabo?’ we were able to connect deeply with this client. And that has paid off for both of us.”
Rabo AgriFinance’s collaboration with Thompson Coburn has received local and national recognition as an innovative legal operations project. In May 2019, the team presented on the collaboration — likening the experience to a difficult-but-rewarding “firewalk” — at the 2019 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Institute in Las Vegas. In 2018, Rabo AgriFinance and Philip Kirkpatrick were honored at Missouri Lawyers Media’s inaugural Top Legal Innovation Awards.
As a leading financial services provider for agricultural producers and agribusinesses in the United States, Rabo AgriFinance adds value using industry expertise, client-focused solutions, and by creating long-term business relationships. Rabo AgriFinance offers a comprehensive portfolio of services that gives producers the right products to prepare for, and take advantage of, market opportunities. This comprehensive suite of services includes loans, insurance, input finance and effective risk management products. Rabo AgriFinance is a subsidiary of Rabobank, a premier bank to the global agriculture industry and one of the world’s largest and strongest banks. Rabobank is an equal opportunity provider.
Thompson Coburn is a full-service law firm with nearly 380 attorneys practicing in more than 50 areas of law. With offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Southern Illinois, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., the firm was named a top 30 law firm in the nation for exceptional client service in 2017 by BTI Consulting, the country’s leading provider of strategic research to law firms and general counsel.
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other organizations through information, education, networking, and advocacy. With more than 45,000 members in 85 countries employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth.
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