ILN Conference Re-Cap: Law Firm Management Panel

One of our sessions during the ILN's 2010 Regional Meeting of the Americas in Houston focused on the always popular topic of law firm management.  The panel was moderated by our Chairman, Peter Altieri of Epstein Becker & Green in New York.  On the panel were Steve Arthur of Harrison & Moberly in Indianapolis, Indiana, Carlos Rodriguez-Vidal of Goldman Antonetti & Cordova in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Doug Winthrop of Howard Rice in San Francisco, California, Bill O'Neill from McDonald Hopkins in Cleveland, Ohio and Anders Lundberg from Hellstrom in Stockholm, Sweden.

Creating Demand

Altieri began by saying that one of the challenges in the current economy for firms is creating demand. In the past, they had much more pipeline work than there is now, in part because clients are trying to do more in-house. He added that even the big firms are coming in and being price-competitive, and asked the panelists to comment on this.

Winthrop said that his firm has been seeing a tremendous rebound in the litigation sector of the firm, which has them quite busy.  Now, they're facing the issue of whether to hire more attorneys on the litigation side, or ask the business lawyers to chip in.  He said they're concerned that they'll find themselves with overcapacity, so they've addressed the issue by doing both.

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ILN Conference Re-Cap: Getting Out of the Box in Counsel Engagement and Service Delivery - the Value Challenge

During the ILN’s 2010 Regional Meeting of the Americas in Houston, Texas last week, we were treated to a presentation by our host firm’s managing partner, Martin Beirne of Beirne Maynard & Parsons, and Jeff Carr, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of FMC Technologies.  Jeff's presentation focused on "Getting Out of the Box in Counsel Engagement and Service Delivery - the Value Challenge." 

Beirne introduced Carr, saying that he's the author of the Associate of Corporate Counsel's Value Challenge - something that he's been talking about for fifteen years.  Carr said that FMC Technologies is a 9 year old company, with about 120 years of history, and is one of those that touches people's lives in many ways.  

Carr jumped right into talking about his experience as a general counsel, saying that his legal spend is less today than it was in 2001, in a world where firms' rates go up 10% a year.  He added that FMC Technologies pays, on average, 107% of their invoices to law firms - he would later explain how and why this happens.

How is it possible to have a smaller legal spend? Carr said companies need to change how they buy what they buy, how they pay for it, and go from being reactive lawyers to being proactive lawyers.  What drives him? If he can save his company $1 million, that equates to a half a cent of share earnings.  That's what drives companies.

He said that his legal team's mission statement says that they're not lawyers - they're there to help achieve business goals.  Only one person who is currently on his team was with him in 2001 because the others either didn't want to move when they changed their headquarters to Houston, or they didn't want to practice law the way that his team does.  They were not willing to embrace change and the discipline that they require to be successful lawyers at FMC Technologies.

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Back from a Conference. Now what?

Last week, the ILN hosted our 2010 Regional Meeting of the Americas in Houston, Texas.  I'll be putting up some posts this week re-capping some of the sessions, but I thought I'd start today with my recommendations for what to do when you get home from a conference.

At our meetings, although the business sessions are very valuable, the key is relationships - our members rely on their relationships for both referral work and collaboration.  And these relationships don't have to take a hiatus just because you're back at work.  So what should you do once you get home?

  1. Reach out: At our conferences, we provide both a delegate & companion listing, and a listing of delegates with their photos.  It's a great idea to go through these during and after the conference, make notes of who you met and what you talked about, and take a few minutes to email them once you're back in the office to let them know you enjoyed meeting with them.  If appropriate, you can arrange a phone call to continue a conversation that you were having during the conference.
     
  2. Connect via social media: We talked a lot about social media at this conference, and I've found that it's an excellent way to keep in touch once you return home.  The easiest thing to do is check on LinkedIn for the other attendees and connect with them.  That way, you can keep up with their activity more regularly.  For ILN members, we also recommend joining our LinkedIn group so that they can continue to interact with their colleagues online.

    Facebook and Twitter are good options as well - do a quick search for the attendees on these platforms if you're using them and are comfortable connecting professionally on them.  
     
  3. Check your calendar: One of the things we recommend to our members is meeting with ILN attorneys when they're visiting another member firm's city.  When you return from a conference, it's a great time to take a quick look at your calendar for the next few months and see where you'll be traveling.  Check these cities against the list of the people you met at the conference, and drop them a quick email to arrange to have lunch or coffee.

Does anyone have any additional tips for what has worked for them after attending a conference? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Conference Re-cap: ALM's Social Media; Risks and Rewards Brand Protection and Promotion and Social Media

After lunch, ALM's Social Media: Risks & Rewards conference focused more on the rewards of social media.  The Brand Protection and Promotion of Social Media session featured Jennifer Arkowitz from Townsend and Townsend and Crew as the moderator, and David Morris, Senior Corporate Counsel of TripAdvisor, Alexandra Sepulveda, Trademark Counsel with General Mills, and Johanna Sistek, Trademark Counsel for Google, Inc. as speakers.  

Proactive or Reactive? 

Arkowitz's first question was whether each of the companies were more proactive or reactive in their social media efforts.

Sepulveda (General Mills) said that for them, it's a combination. When Facebook had a big land grab for user names, they went through their brand list and got all of those names.  She said that as trademark lawyers, they're classic hostages, because if they know about something, they have to do something about it.  

Sistek (Google) said that they have issues raised internally from employees as well as users, so they're able to be reactive instead of proactive. She added that all of their teams use social media in what they do.

Morris (TripAdvisor) commented that they're both proactive and reactive. Being an online brand is core to what they do, so although they don't have a dedicated social media team, about half the company is working on social media. They do that internally and externally. TripAdvisor uses small firms to scour the net for mentions of their company - this is at a cost, but it does help to find those mentions.

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Conference Review: ALM's Social Media: Risks & Rewards - E-Discovery & Social Media

The third session of ALM's Social Media: Risks and Rewards conference focused on social media's impact on e-discovery, and was presented by Michael Lackey, Jr. a partner at Mayer Brown LLP. 

Lackey started with an overview of his presentation, saying it would discuss how social is coming up in litigation and the roadblocks to be aware of. He commented that there are a couple of high profile cases that are defining the limits of what you can get and how you can get it.  For organizations that have social media content that becomes relevant in litigation, there are obligations for preserving this information.  Often, it is being hosted by someone else, so that creates challenges.  

As many of us involved with social media would agree, Lackey said that there's no doubt that social media is not a fad - it's here to stay.  He mentioned some of the more traditional platforms for social media, but also included lawyer rating agencies and other kinds of technology, such as FourSquare, for consideration in litigation.  

He said that consumers have a lot of trust out there and like the interactivity, especially in terms of connecting with corporations. Lackey added that digital word of mouth marketing would top $3 billion by 2013. 

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Conference Review: ALM's Social Media: Risks & Rewards - Privacy and Security in Social Media

The second session of ALM's Social Media: Risks & Rewards also focused on the risks of social media.  Orrie Dinstein, the Chief Privacy Leader and Senior IP Counsel for GE Capital spoke on Privacy and Security in Social Media.  

He started by saying that there had been a global conference of data commissioners the previous week in Jerusalem, and the most interesting thing about the conference had been its theme - a new generation (of users, laws and technology), which all converges in the social media space.

It was clear from the comments at the conference that there's so much interest in the social media space, but no one knows what to do with it and it's constantly evolving.  

Dinstein focused on privacy and security in social media - or a lack of privacy and insecurity. He didn't offer any solutions, but instead raised a number of points about this complicated space, beginning with security. 

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Conference Review: ALM's Social Media: Risks & Rewards - Beyond Terms of Use: From Handcuffs to Handshake?

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend American Lawyer Media's Social Media: Risks & Rewards conference as an ILN Marketing Partner.  As evidence of the popularity of the conference's content, the room was almost standing room only by the end of the morning.  (For tweets from the conference, see the #LSMC hashtag results)

The first two sessions focused more on the "risks" portion of the conference, discussing a lot of concerns about social media.  The first speaker was Joel Reidenberg, Professor of Law and Director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University School of Law. His presentation was "Beyond Terms of Use: From Handcuffs to Handshake?" 

Professor Reidenberg began by saying that it's important to think about Terms of Service as an effort by social media sites to bring some certainty to their own environment where the law is lacking and vague. Terms of Service typically consist of two sets of documents:

  1. Basic user agreement
  2. Privacy Policy, which is normally incorporated by reference, so the two work hand in hand.
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