Hearst Corporation (“Hearst”) (website) is a Priori client and one of the nation's largest diversified media, information and services companies with more than 360 businesses. Its major interests include ownership in cable television networks such as A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime and ESPN; global ratings agency Fitch Group; Hearst Health, a group of medical information and services businesses; 31 television stations; newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union, nearly 300 magazines around the world including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR and Car and Driver; digital services businesses such as iCrossing and KUBRA; and investments in emerging digital and video companies such as Complex Networks, AwesomenessTV, BuzzFeed and Vice.
Hearst’s legal function, the Office of General Counsel (“OGC”), is based in New York City and is headed by Eve Burton, the company’s Chief Legal Officer. Burton and the OGC are responsible for providing legal services to all of Hearst’s 360+ businesses around the world, an undertaking that requires the OGC attorneys to advise on a wide variety of legal matters, ranging from complex acquisitions and litigation to day-to-day customer and vendor contracts and compliance issues.
To accommodate and streamline the diverse range of legal work across Hearst’s portfolio companies, the OGC is structured more like a law firm than a traditional legal department, with the office exclusively comprised of senior attorneys with subject-matter expertise across a range of practice areas, including corporate, privacy, employment law, First Amendment, litigation, intellectual property and more, with the attorneys collaborating on projects across practices. The OGC handles most complex work internally. There are no junior attorneys in the OGC, and no attorneys who are solely responsible for rote legal work.
Due to the global scale of Hearst’s operations, Burton encourages the OGC attorneys to use outside counsel for legal projects that require local counsel or niche expertise as well as for more basic work that can take time away from the more complex, mission-critical legal challenges. Doing this efficiently and cost-effectively, however, has become increasingly challenging as the hourly rates for law firm partners surpassed the $1,000 mark, on the one hand, and identifying smaller, less expensive providers became an extremely time-consuming endeavor with unreliable results, on the other. Because of these constraints, OGC attorneys were instead absorbing the work themselves, which meant they had less time to focus on more high-value projects.
In the above context, Burton turned to Priori to help eliminate the alternately expensive or time-consuming task of finding, hiring and managing outside counsel. Priori first came to Burton’s attention in fall 2017 when, in her dual role as Chairwoman of HearstLab, a venture capital fund within Hearst that invests in and nurtures women-led companies, Burton had an opportunity to invest in Priori. In Priori, Burton saw an opportunity not only to add capital and value to a “spectacular” business idea, but also to ameliorate the OGC’s mounting problem of identifying cost-effective counsel niche projects and non-mission critical work. Burton and HearstLab ultimately made the investment, and since December 2017 Priori has been embedded with the OGC in order for each to derive maximum benefit from the engagement. At the time of writing, Hearst has committed to a year-long engagement with Priori for outside counsel support.
As Burton explains, “Priori’s easy-to-use technology platform lets Hearst compare, centralize and streamline relationships with multiple [legal] providers while reducing the amount of time spent finding appropriate counsel, managing communication and billings by over 80%.”
Leveraging Priori’s attorney network and RFP process, Hearst OGC attorneys have been able to find quality attorneys who have the necessary experience and bandwidth to meet the breadth of their legal project needs, while at the same time saving the OGC substantial time and cost. Examples of the types of projects undertaken since Hearst began its partnership with Priori include SaaS contracts, data privacy compliance, healthcare law advice, media and entertainment counsel, equipment leasing contracts, local real estate attorneys in multiple jurisdictions, and contracts overflow.
Eve Burton, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer, Hearst Corporation:
“Co-founders Basha Rubin and Mirra Levitt have a clear and powerful vision for the future of legal services and their team is working tirelessly to execute it. I fully expect their technology will create a rising tide for the legal industry by bringing efficiency, data and transparency to the outside counsel selection process while improving satisfaction for in-house groups and rightsizing costs. Outside practitioners will also love the platform as it will drive business development and help provide flexibility that is so sought after by the Millennial and Z generations.
I have had the opportunity to personally observe Basha and Mirra with their superb team and have been impressed by their motivational and effective leadership style and the culture they are driving through their young organization. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from several clients and network attorneys that have validated that Priori is driving real value for them and that has changed the way they do business. Those are two of the most critical points of measurement for us in the Lab as we track the progress of the startups we’ve invested in. Priori is hitting it out of the park on all fronts. Priori’s approach to revolutionizing how legal services are sought and transacted has major potential in this industry.”
A multinational bank and investment fund, headquartered in the Asia-Pacific region and with offices globally, including in the U.S., UK, Asia-Pacific and Middle East. The company also owns stakes in a multitude of companies through its investment fund. Those investments operate across a range of industry verticals, including financial services, food and beverage, healthcare and biotechnology, location services, real estate, technology, transportation and more.
The company’s corporate legal function operates out of California. That function comprises a team of 10+ attorneys responsible for managing the company’s corporate and commercial legal operations across its global offices.
The breadth and continued growth of the company’s global operations and investment portfolio was putting a strain on the California-based team’s capacity to manage the company’s legal work. Particular areas of concern included reviewing, negotiating and drafting commercial contracts (NDAs, MSAs, vendor agreements and related contracts) and advising on legal matters relevant to the company’s foreign offices (local expertise).
The company first turned to Priori to assist with the company’s overflow commercial work in the U.S. and U.K. Priori connected the company with two U.S. attorneys with in-house experience and strong technology backgrounds, and a U.K.-based attorney with extensive technology and financial services experience, to provide an aggregate of 30-60 hours per week overflow support for the company’s U.S. and U.K. operations. More recently, the company has used Priori to connect with boutique firms in China, Singapore and the Middle East to assist the company with commercial overflow and local overflow work in those jurisdictions.
The company has reported strong satisfaction with the work performed by the Priori attorneys to date, demonstrated by the company expanding its use of Priori attorneys following the success of the U.S. and U.K.-based engagements. The company continues to work with Priori on new projects as its operations continue to scale, with Priori now assisting with a GDPR project related to the company’s U.K. office.