Getting into the Corporate Counsel Mind

The high point of today's LSSO conference was the general counsel panel. It included Patricia Gray of Arch Wireless, Gabriel Miller of Captivate Network, Christopher Mirabile of IONA Technologies and Aaron von Staats of PTC product development. Each company spends several million a year on outside legal fees.

Here are the practical points I picked up:

  • Law firms should find out how their legal fees will be accounted for by the corporation. If they will be capitalized, as opposed to recorded as an expense, there will be much less fee resistance. Miller said, "If we're doing a deal we can capitalize, we'll shove everything including legal fees into that budget." It's very important to know how the corporate budgeting works -- Mirabile said, "It makes a difference if the GC is budget holder, are there chargebacks in the company, is the legal budget a catchall budget that'll be taken away if not spent." The more a law firm knows, the easier the fees will be to swallow.
  • Medium-sized firms can get an edge over mega-law firms by offering lawyers who have cross-functional skills, that is, a litigator who knows bankruptcy as well as securities law. In the big firms, these two areas of law are compartmentalized. Gray said, "This is where a medium size firm can compete with the big firms, where the lawyers are not encouraged to develop cross-functional skills."
  • GCs will hire a new law firm only based on a recommendation of a GC colleague at another company. Mirabile said, "I would never hire a law firm without a recommendation." Accordingly, the best marketing money a law firm can spend it to develop a circle of GCs who will actively recommend the firm when their colleague call up. A referral from a GC is worth more than a million-dollar brochure. Miller said, "I don't think I've ever had a firm that I didn't have an introduction to, somebody else knew about them."
  • When dealing with big firms, GCs want to have a single, trusted lawyer they can call up to guide them to the right lawyer for their work. Having a "relationship partner" or point person -- even if they're not doing the work -- is what the GCs want to navigate through the titanic law firms.
    I only wish there had been more questions put to them that related to getting a sales call from a non-lawyer professional. With the advent of sales pros in law firms, I would have like to hear how the GCs would respond to a cold call from a law firm sales person.

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    Comments (1) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
    John W. - June 25, 2004 6:38 AM

    This entry looks different than it did yesterday. As a GC, I thought the original version was more revealing, on many levels.

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