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

Continue Reading “Legal is the Only Industry Where Clients Act Like Sellers and Sellers Act Like Buyers” – A General Counsel Panel

There are still people out there who think social media is not for professionals.

C’mon, admit it. 

All right, so the likelihood is that those people aren’t reading this blog, because, after all, it’s part of that "social media stuff." But how many of you who have dipped your toe in the water (i.e. joined Facebook, staked your claim on your Twitter name, filled out your LinkedIn profile) are using social media? And how many of you are blogging…regularly? 

I’m sure more than one of you mentally raised your hand as you read that. 

And I’m sure some of you who did are still wondering why the heck you would want to use social media anyway.  So let’s talk about that for a little while. 

Continue Reading Let’s Be Social – A Look at the 2012 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey

During the LMA’s opening session on Wednesday, we were treated to a great client panel on achieving greater collaboration – what you need to know to get a win-win relationship with your clients.  On the panel were Stephen Kaplan, the Senior Vice President & General Counsel for Connextions, Inc., Jeff Novak, the General Counsel for AOL Paid Services, and John Lewis Jr., the Senior Managing Counsel-Litigation for The Coca-Cola Company,

They gave us a lot of incredibly valuable feedback, which I’d like to share with you.  To qualify – at the end of the session, they did say that this wasn’t to be taken as the "rules" for dealing with all general counsel.  The idea is for this to open a dialogue with your clients and get you thinking about how you can better service them.

Main Points from the GC’s

  • Don’t treat all clients the same – that’s like being a therapist and treating all of your patients the same.
  • The GCs were amazed by how infrequently firms will come to them and ask how they are measured internally and what success looks like for them – doing this can differentiate you.
  • It’s your job as lawyers to make your clients look good.
  • Find un-met needs for your clients – this is a different value proposition than that offered by your competitors
  • Realization rates can go up when you can help the in-house counsel meet their legal spending budget.
  • Client service should be very personal, tailored to the individual just as much as the institution.
  • Firms that know the secret to cost containment in their own firms should be able to help General Counsel apply those principles in their department.
  • When a client comes to your firm and you can divine that they’re in need, that’s an opportunity for the firm to embed a partnership.
  • Meeting their needs transcends the vendor relationship and makes you a partner.
  • Learn how to self-select – you can’t be all things to all people.  It’s difficult to discern any self-selection from the pitches that they get.  One of them recently got a pitch from a company that was obviously conflicted and should have self-selected.
  • There is lots of buzz around AFA’s – but not everyone is positioned to do this. A value relationship is one where you have value to deliver.


Continue Reading Lawyers – We Are Still Missing the Boat with Clients

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.

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