Jeffrey Marple, who has gained a national reputation for law department innovation in his role as director of innovation for corporate legal at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, has moved to Keesal Propulsion Labs, a company that assists Fortune 500 law departments in automating their business and legal processes, where has taken the position of director of digital transformation strategy.

In an exclusive interview for my LawNext podcast recorded in advance of today’s announcement, I discuss the move with Marple and Rudy DeFelice, cofounder and CEO of KP Labs. They also share their insights on the current state of law department innovation, the challenges law departments face in innovating, and where the industry is heading.

“There’s a real need for innovation in corporate legal departments, which are now becoming transformation leaders in their organizations,” DeFelice says in the interview, describing the work of KP Labs. “But there’s a need for bridge in between those things, to understand how new technologies can affect real business opportunities, and that’s the lane we play in.”

Marple’s move comes after 21 years at Liberty Mutual in Boston, where, in his most recent role, he led the investigation, testing, and implementation of new technology, processes, and business models to improve how legal professionals work.

In 2019, the Association of Corporate Counsel named Marple’s department the “Legal Operations Team of the Year.”

Earlier at Liberty Mutual, he held roles in systems development and insurance innovation. He is the co-creator of the Boston Legal Design Challenge and he serves as a formal and informal advisor to several legal tech companies. In 2020, the College of Law Practice Management inducted him as a fellow for his significant contributions to the field.

It is the second big-name departure from Liberty Mutual’s legal department in as many weeks, as Robert Taylor, former vice president, and senior corporate counsel for legal ideation and transformation at Liberty Mutual, left to join Deloitte’s Legal Business Services group as managing director.

Marple says part of what motivated him to make this move was his desire to be in a role that put him in direct contact with customers, something he had experienced earlier in his time at Liberty. “There’s something special about that kind of work,” he says.

He also wanted the opportunity to work in a company that could be more nimble than a large corporation and that serves multiple verticals, not just insurance.

“I just wanted to go out and see some different things and see if I could learn some new things that I hadn’t learned already.”

Marple joins a company that was spun off in 2018 from the California law firm Keesal, Young & Logan. Its focus is the digital transformation of corporate legal departments, specifically on business process improvement, contract intelligence, and custom solutions to specific challenges.

DeFelice, the company’s cofounder and CEO, is a lawyer and technology entrepreneur. After practicing law early in his career with the firms McDermott, Will & Emery and Kelley Drye & Warren, he went on to found three technology companies, including one venture-backed legal technology company, Realpractice, which was acquired in 2012.

“I find the five best people in the entire space for what we want done, and I put all my time into that,” DeFelice says in the podcast of how he recruited Marple. “Then we meet them all, and we hire the best human being. And that’s how Jeff got here. He’s our kind of guy.

“That’s a long-term company-building strategy, because you need to wake up every morning excited to work with the people who are in your company, and you need to know that your clients feel the same way.”