LMA SoCal hosted our annual Corporate Counsel Panel in Orange County and San Diego on May 14th and 15th. We would like to extend our thanks to our moderator, David Bruns, Director of Client Services at Farella Braun + Martel and to all our panelists.
San Diego panelists:
- Amy Nefouse, Senior Counsel, Sempra Energy
- Phillip Rudolph, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal & Risk Officer and Corporate Secretary, Jack in the Box
- Michael Wagner, Senior Counsel, Acer America/Gateway, Inc.
In case you missed it, here are some of the comments shared by the Orange County panel…
When it comes to client service, our panel was most appreciative of attorneys who:
- Make the client’s issue the attorney’s issue
- Become an invested member of the client's team
- Anticipate requests and take the initiative
- Demonstrate creativity in problem solving
- Treat all employees of the client, as the client – not just the GC or obvious decision makers
Though the panel did not find a written service pledge particularly valuable in and of itself, they all agreed that a client’s culture can affect the quality of their work. Difficult cultures tend not to produce as much value.
To meet and create new relationships with in-house counsel, our panel recommended that attorneys stay away from a blind phone call or email. Instead, become invested in organizations and activities in which your contacts participate. Although lunch tends to be a preferred meeting time, each in-house counsel’s schedule is different – find a time and activity that works for them.
When asked how attorneys and law firms could expand and improve relationships with current clients our panel was sensitive to:
- Cost of legal services
- Value added services such as CLE programs
- Locally based culture focused on service and clients
- Firms that respect and follow the scope of services their client expects. Some companies prefer to drive strategy, while others count on their outside counsel to do so. It is up to the firm to work within their clients’ preferences.
Budgets and Billing
Although the budgeting process varies from client to client, our panel agreed:
- Inability to predict a budget damages outside counsel’s credibility. Although many costs are variable – especially in litigation – law firms should be able to use experience and historical data to provide estimates.
- If a budget is agreed to it must be adhered to. Many GCs have budgets of their own, so deviations from agreed upon legal expenses by outside counsel should be communicated early.
- Bills should be clear. Although some in-house counsel may not have the bandwidth to review all invoices line-by-line, when bills are inspected, in-house attorneys should have a clear snapshot of the work performed.