"Legal is the Only Industry Where Clients Act Like Sellers and Sellers Act Like Buyers" - A General Counsel Panel
I'm currently about 30,000 feet above the earth, flying back home after a whirlwind time at the LMA's Annual Conference. I feel like my attendance at the conference was akin to drinking water from a firehose - there was a lot of information to take in, and a lot of great ideas and conversation. Now, it's time to process all of that, and sort out what I can use and share.
In my mind, the most important session of the conference is always the General Counsel (GC) panel - I can best help my clients by telling them what their clients say to marketing folks when they're not around. This year, the panel was its own breakout session (though I think it should really be required attendance for EVERYONE), and once again, it was an incredibly valuable session.
The panel featured Ron K. Barger, the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Archon Group, Jeffrey W. Carr, the Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary for FMC Technologies, and Janet L. Dhillon, the EVP, General Counsel and Secretary for J.C. Penney Company. It was moderated by Tom Duggan and Cathleen Flahardy of InsideCounsel. All of the GC's represented are active members in the General Counsel Forum.
While I'll get into the details of what was discussed during the panel in subsequent posts, I thought I'd start with some of the more salient points, captured in quotes from the panelists (I've added emphasis where I thought it was particularly important):
- "We are not lawyers. We are businesspeople first." -- Jeff Carr
- "I want to be your most important and least significant client" -- Jeff Carr
- "It's the things I can't see ahead of me that 'keep me up at night.'" -- Ron Barger
- On using "non-lawyers" to manage cases: "I could care less if I talk to a lawyer or talk to a janitor. Just give me someone who can do the job." -- Jeff Carr
- "If your firm's culture doesn't match my culture, you're dead." -- Ron Barger
- "The legal industry is perverse. It's the only industry where buyers act like sellers and sellers act like buyers" -- Jeff Carr
- "What really bothers me is firms that won't take responsibility for something that goes wrong." --Jeff Carr
- "Don't argue with me about whose fault the mistake was. Just tell me it's not going to happen again." -- Jeff Carr
- "The traditional law firm model is dying. Get over it, and understand what the new world is going to be." -- Jeff Carr
- "There will be new business models that come into place. We'll build them if you won't. We don't need YOU to survive. We need the [legal] industry to survive." -- Jeff Carr
- "I will not talk to you about AFAs. We've banned the word 'alternative.' There's nothing 'alternative' about alternative fees." -- Jeff Carr
- "Law firms MUST know their cost structure. It's too high, based on pass-through, and on inefficiency. I won't tolerate that." -- Jeff Carr
- "Firms should be able to figure out with every matter on average how much it's going to cost you. I know what it costs to litigate certain types of matters. If there are firms who know these costs, I haven't found them." -- Janet Dhillon
- "Unless you know your costs, you can't be a good partner for my company." -- Janet Dhillon
- "Lawyers don't like to be told they're 'average.' So we don't use that word anymore. We say 'you're meeting requirements.'" -- Jeff Carr
- "If you send me a brochure, I throw it out. Get rid of them." -- Ron Barger
- "Be pleasant with all my staff. Don't save your best behavior for me." -- Janet Dhillon
- "Quality is the price of admission. Not a differentiator." -- Jeff Carr
- "I pay zero attention to your website, unless there's a tool I can use." -- Jeff Carr