On Friday morning, LMA delegates gathered to hear the annual general counsel panel, "U.S. General Counsel Discuss Global Needs for Outside Counsel: Is Your Firm on Their Short List?" produced by Inside Counsel and Lloyd Johnson.

The program description read: 

This panel of general counsel will discuss high priority needs, challenges and concerns related to managing a large law department.  In addition, the panel will discuss the complexities…related to managing a remote professional staff who work outside the United States. Topics covered will include: 

  • How law firms can help meet the needs of today’s law department challenges; 
  • What today’s law department leaders see as potential future challenges
  • How firms’ managing partners may engage in shared insight discussions with law department leader/counterparts
  • How is value received for fees paid assessed by the corporations today? 
  • What is most useful about a year-end review, aka client feedback meeting?
  • Last call: number one need on the law department side: from the relationship standpoint? From the substantive legal needs standpoint?"


Continue Reading US General Counsel: Global Needs for Outside Counsel

I’m very excited to be kicking off our newest feature today on Zen – the General Counsel Corner! 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen a number of in-house counsel presentations and articles, many of which continue to have the same themes with respect to the inside/outside counsel relationship. It seems that many law firms may still not understand what their clients and potential clients really need and want. To continue to draw attention to those things that matter most to GCs, I’ll be featuring in-house counsel here on the blog in our "General Counsel Corner." Periodically, I’ll be sharing with you a short interview that I’ve done with a GC, in which he or she will answer one key question. 


Continue Reading General Counsel Corner: Factors in Hiring Outside Counsel

At this year’s LMA, we were fortunate enough to have not one, but TWO sessions with General Counsel. This one took place at the end of the first day, and included a procurement guy – a first for the LMA. The session was titled "GC Focus: Project Management. Position Your Firm in Alignment With the Unique Challenges Faced by In-house Counsel." 

Panelists included Keith Isgett, the Managing Attorney-General – Global External Legal Relations, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Justin Ergler, Sourcing Group Manager, Legal Services Procurement, GlaxoSmithKline, and Nat Slavin, Founder and Partner of Wicker Park Group, along with Moderator Alicia Brown, Director of Strategic Relationships for Bloomberg Law. 

After their introductions, Isgett kicked it off by saying that he wants to receive the best representation for the best price, and part of the "best representation" is having a good relationship with the law firm. The procurement team is there to make sure that what they’re paying for is what they receive, and that there is value there. Isgett noted that "People are still talking about discounted hourly rates, which means we’re not as far along as I’d like us to be." 

Continue Reading GC Focus – an LMA Annual Conference Recap

In yesterday’s post, we learned that building relationships is still of primary importance to clients – and some of the ways to do this including figuring out what benefits the client the most, and focusing on what business solutions will make them look good. 

The panelists agreed that the role of their lawyers needs to be that of strategic partners, and for their part, they need to inform outside counsel about what they need. But outside counsel can also be proactive to learn more about their clients. The panelists suggested that attorneys read company filings and public documents before they meet with them. They emphasized that outside counsel should understand their customer before asking them to be their customer. Post-matter debriefings, at no cost, are also helpful.


Continue Reading General Counsel Panel: Separate from the Pack – a Recap Part II

Another of my all-time favorite conference sessions at LMA is always the client panel.  For me, the panel always makes the investment in the conference worth it, because I can impart what I learn from the GCs there to my lawyers, to help them to understand their own clients better, and that adds value for everyone. 

This year’s client panel didn’t disappoint. It focused on best practices for building and maintaining your law firm’s relationship with in-house counsel and featured Megan Belcher, the VP and Chief Employment Counsel for ConAgra, Kevin Schubert, the Associate General Counsel, Transactions for LV Sands Corporation, Simon Manoucherian, the Assistance General Counsel/Director of Litigation GRIFOLS, and Karen Cottle, Senior Counsel for Sidley Austin and former in-house counsel. The panel was moderated by Inside Counsel magazine. 

The panelists said that they would discuss the role of social media for general counsel, the challenges that they see over the next five years, and the change in inside/outside counsel relationships since 2008.  Since the economic downturn, GCs have changed the way that they evaluate outside counsel, and the process by which trust is built. 


Continue Reading General Counsel Panel: Separate from the Pack – a Recap Part I

In my last post, we talked about the first part of the client panel session from the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Meeting, with panelists Jeff Carr of FMC Technologies, Janet Dhillon of J.C. Penney and Ron Barger of the Archon Group. The second part of the session was equally as valuable as the first.

One of the interesting points that the panelists made during their comments was that they need their attorneys to elicit the real end game from them – they went as far as to suggest that attorneys should ask them directly “What does ‘winning’ mean to you?” Jeff said lawyers need to get their clients to be specific, because they often won’t volunteer that information.

He joked that business development is like a relationship – people don’t get better with time. They’re on their best behavior in the “marketing phase,” so attorneys need to get past that, and force their clients to be specific about the results that they want.


Continue Reading Change or Die? A General Counsel Panel – Part II

A few days ago, I offered my initial recap of the general counsel panel that we were treated to at this year’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference, focusing on some key quotes from the session. Now, let’s get into the meat of the panel, where even more value is to be found.

The one overriding thought I had (and I was not alone if you listened to the tweet stream) was that year after year, we’re hearing the same comments and advice from general counsel. What does that mean? It means that law firms STILL aren’t listening to what their clients really want. 

In the past, this has been manageable, because the economy was thriving and there was plenty of work to be going around. But now, as Jeff Carr of FMC Technologies warns:

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."


Continue Reading Change or Die? A General Counsel Panel – Part I

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

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