Gary Porter on the Synergy of Top-Tier Consulting

Gary Porter’s high-level consulting practice sits at the unique intersection of business and law – with a bit of engineering added to the mix. A graduate of MIT’s mechanical engineering program, its Sloan School of Management master’s program and then Harvard Law School, Porter has never been one to compromise one passion in favor of another. Instead, he synthesizes his varying expertise to yield unparalleled results. For the last five years, he’s done so by advising the nation’s top law firms as a senior principal consultant with leading consulting firm P&C Global.

Porter’s three degrees represent his wide-ranging talents – but after law school, he had a choice to make. He’d split his summer associate time between the legal industry, with Ropes & Gray, and the management field, as a management consultant with Monitor Group. In the end, Porter went with consulting, joining McKinsey & Company after graduation.

Next, Porter took an impressive leap into the executive realm: He spent a decade as Vice President of Fortune 500 firm Waste Management, the largest environmental services firm on the continent. In that time, Porter spearheaded large-scale initiatives including a several-years-long digital transformation program and sprawling mergers and acquisitions developments – experience he leverages when working with law firms now. “Having diverse experience both as a management consultant and Fortune 500 executive, I’ve also been exposed to solutions and best practices adopted by other industries that can add tremendous value to law firms,” says Porter. “This blend of backgrounds enables me to deliver the best of both worlds to P&C Global clients.”

At P&C Global, Porter is a member of the firm’s Law and Advisory Services, Digital Transformations, Strategy & Innovation and Corporate Performance practice groups. The powerhouse full-service firm, which has a substantial law firm practice staffed with many former lawyers like Porter, also serves professional services firms and corporations across industries, including major airlines, many of the world’s largest banks and top private equity firms.

In the legal sector, Porter helps top-flight firms streamline and modernize their operations. He aids clients in engagements ranging from targeted issues, like digital technology overhauls, to full-scale firm transformations. Recently, he and his team supported a plaintiffs’ firm through a comprehensive reshaping, including modernizing key digital technology like Document Management and eDiscovery, as well as steering new approaches to the firm’s practice mix, pricing strategy, compensation models and leadership roles. After a year and a half of rejuvenating efforts, profits per equity partner nearly doubled.

This holistic approach is buoyed by Porter’s specific business knowledge combined with his comprehensive experience across industries. “Having walked in [lawyers’] footsteps – at least briefly – at the inception of my career, I understand the opportunities, challenges and dynamics faced by legal practitioners as my clients and am deeply committed to seeing them succeed,” he says.

Lawdragon: How does your interdisciplinary experience – going as far back as your dual summer associate roles in the law and management industries – manifest in your practice now?

Gary Porter: I have always been fascinated by the intersection between business and law. Those experiences provided me an end-to-end perspective of corporate strategy and transactions. As a consultant working on corporate portfolio strategy, I performed valuations and ultimately developed term sheets to optimize subsidiary holdings, whereas as a corporate transactions attorney I refined similar term sheets into detailed definitive agreements. I appreciated the intellectual challenge and opportunity to have significant impacts with both roles, but ultimately chose consulting. In this regard, consulting with law firms represents a return to my roots.

I especially enjoy working with law firms because they represent the epitome of the knowledge economy and are therefore in the midst of a profound evolution as the world continues to digitize.

LD: Tell me more about your connection to the legal industry.

GP: The practice of law runs deep in my family since my wife also spent many years as a telecom attorney. P&C Global offered me a chance to combine my functional passions – strategy and innovation, digital transformation, and performance improvement – with one of my favorite industries, legal services.

I especially enjoy working with law firms because they represent the epitome of the knowledge economy and are therefore in the midst of a profound evolution as the world continues to digitize. Comparing modern capabilities such as eDiscovery and generative AI against traditional practices such as due diligence war rooms and Shepardizing with paper files from just a generation ago, the contrast is stark. It’s extremely satisfying to help law firms navigate this dynamic, accelerating environment.

LD: Mechanical engineering is also part of your background. If your interests sit at the intersection of business and law, how does mechanical engineering – the scientific side of you – fold into that?

GP: Success increasingly requires interdisciplinary perspectives. Mechanical engineering has provided me a solid quantitative foundation which is universally applicable. Indeed, one of my earliest engagements at P&C Global involved developing a business analytics solution for a legal client to provide them both strategic and tactical insights. An engineering mindset also informs my approach to developing logical workflows and optimizing processes.

General management concepts are also broadly applicable to law firms. Like all professional services organizations, they share fundamental dynamics such as an emphasis upon human capital and a reliance upon effective technology platforms. On numerous occasions, I’ve seen law firms benefit tremendously from best practices already tried and tested in other industries.

Finally, it’s incredibly important to understand the landscape of opportunities and challenges from the perspective of managing partners and other legal practitioners. Whether the organization is a global defense firm or a member of the plaintiffs’ class action bar, the nature of client relationships, matter lifecycles, fee arrangements, case resource models and administrative support requirements can vary wildly. General precepts, while a good starting point, need to be customized for each client’s individual needs, and here P&C Global’s deep experience within this sector is a true differentiator.

LD: What varieties of matters are you brought in on most often? Has that changed at all in the last few years?

GP: Managing partners consistently turn to P&C Global to address the most critical issues facing their organizations. Although precise topics can vary somewhat from firm to firm, most commonly these matters relate to corporate strategy (practice mix, pricing optimization, geographic scope, merger and acquisition opportunities), human capital (organizational effectiveness and development, recruiting, and compensation strategy), cybersecurity, and digital transformation spanning the entire footprint of law firm capabilities. Of these domains, the digital ones are evolving most rapidly but both strategy and people will always remain important considerations.

In the spirit of transparency, I’m proud to say that we recognize non-core matters and will have candid conversations with our clients when these arise. For ancillary and niche projects where we don’t believe there’s sufficient upside to clients for us to be able to add significant value, we will gladly refer opportunities to other service providers who can more cost effectively serve. We value our trusted relationships with our clients and would much rather collaborate with them to select the right opportunities over the long term.

LD: You mentioned digital transformations. What does a digital overhaul for a law firm look like in 2024?

GP: Digital transformations for law firms represent seminal events, establishing platform capabilities that launch the next generation of growth and development. Indeed, these programs are often so comprehensive and deep that they come to define the legacies of the leadership teams who initiate them.

Digital transformations for law firms are often so comprehensive and deep that they come to define the legacies of the leadership teams who initiate them.

Full-fledged digital transformations typically involve the design and deployment of several mutually reinforcing capabilities. For one recent client, P&C Global replaced fragmented and antiquated legacy document management and eDiscovery tools with best of breed solutions. For another, we are implementing modern practice management and case management solutions coupled with a series of custom modules tailored for their unique requirements. In both cases, the scope of work has included a broad array of technology enablers such as network infrastructure, endpoint devices and cybersecurity. Across the board, our clients are also of course interested in cutting-edge machine learning applications including generative AI, a domain in which we are a global leader.

Consistent with our ethos of delivering end-to-end performance improvement, however, P&C Global does not stop with underlying technology implementation. The key for digital transformations is not just successful implementation of underlying technologies, but rather the ability to unlock value from the strategic opportunities and organizational effectiveness that they enable. In conjunction with technical program implementation, we have thus partnered with our clients to accelerate business development; radically reshape their practice mix, leverage ratios and geographic footprint; upgrade, motivate and develop their human capital; streamline administrative efficiency; and improve their effectiveness as legal practitioners.

These transformation programs deliver impressive returns on investment. For one of our law firm clients, an 18-month engagement increased annual profits by $25M, almost doubling annual profits per equity partner.

LD: How do financial technologies, specifically, play a role in those transformations?

GP: Financial technologies often comprise core components of our legal clients’ transformation programs. Having decades of experience with each of the industry leading solutions, P&C Global brings a strong point of view regarding the most appropriate systems. We customize our approach for the unique needs of each client, but do not waste time surveying the landscape of available candidates.

These financial solutions involve integrated ledgers and subledgers, with robust workflow engines as well as strong controls and balancing mechanisms across general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, trust receipt and disbursement, budgeting and forecasting, reporting and analytics, invoice management, expense management and related domains. The emphasis varies by client, with hourly defense firms typically having the greatest need for accounts receivable billing capabilities, compared against plaintiffs’ bar contingency firms focusing upon the high-volume accounts payable requirements stemming from complex class action litigation. All organizations benefit from the strong scalability and transparency these solutions enable.

LD: With all the areas of expertise you cover, do you have any favorite varieties of engagements?

GP: Looking back, my favorite engagements have been holistic, long-term efforts where we truly worked in lockstep with our clients to comprehensively reinvent their business practices and capabilities. At a mid-market plaintiffs’ bar client, for example, our changes impacted virtually every member of the firm and led to material improvements in financial results that would place them well within the Am Law 200. At the end of the day, my satisfaction comes from knowing that I was able to have a positive impact upon people’s lives.

LD: And what have you enjoyed most about working at P&C Global?

GP: By far, the factor that most excites me about working at P&C Global is the opportunity to interact with phenomenal people. Even compared against other institutions I’ve experienced such as Harvard, MIT and McKinsey & Company, my colleagues at P&C Global are among the brightest people I’ve ever met and push me on a daily basis to excel. On the client side, managing shareholders and their leadership teams are equally inspirational. Like P&C Global, my clients also tend to share a deeply held set of values and understated geniality that makes them a joy to serve.