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As Gillette has expanded around the world, its legal department has also gone global. We’ve had to decide when to staff our international offices with in-house lawyers, when to use just local counsel instead, and a host of other issues. Two years ago we decided to review our international legal bench strength. Here are the questions we asked: 1. -Do we need an attorney at regional headquarters? If so, would that position cover each country within the region or simply headquarters-related matters? 2. -Should we place an attorney where we have high outside counsel legal fees for routine work, so that the lawyer can try to lower those costs? 3. -Should we place an attorney where the market has high growth potential? 4. -Should we place an attorney in countries where the laws are the most stringent and govern product development from start to finish? Our concerns were twofold: How did local management define the legal needs of the business, and what were historical and future projections for outside counsel costs? The first part was relatively easy to answer. Generally speaking, senior managers believe that if used strategically, good legal advice can lead to a clear competitive advantage. As far as outside counsel, while historical costs were not always available, at a minimum we were able to estimate fees and examine the economics of legal services for a particular market. THOUSANDS OF MILES LATER With those questions and cultural norms in mind, we conducted a legal “needs assessment” in 2001. It included on-site visits to key markets, interviews with business leaders in the field, and attendance at high-level meetings run by local management. Those trips also included in-depth interviews with outside counsel to ensure a thorough evaluation of an oftentimes longstanding relationship with a law firm. After thousands of frequent flyer miles, we completed our review in late 2001 and determined that adding in-house counsel in Singapore, China, Mexico, and Brazil would answer the business needs and meet our objective of providing efficient, cost-effective legal services. Then we embarked on a two-year program to identify candidates for those positions and to establish four satellite offices reporting to our Boston headquarters and the deputy general counsel assigned to Asia and Latin America. Clearly, a cookie-cutter approach would not work in hiring for these positions. Instead, we focused on understanding the differences in legal training as well as the cultural attitudes toward lawyers, government, and laws generally in each country. We also struggled to find candidates who would be a good match with our corporate culture. Staffing our Far East offices was a high priority. It took little time to conclude that a seasoned lawyer could be of great value at our Asian headquarters in Singapore. With a strong legal presence in that country, there was no reason to add counsel elsewhere in the region, except for China. Although the country’s outside legal fees were relatively low, we considered China’s potential future importance to our business, its nascent legal system, and its entry into the World Trade Organization as the deciding factors in establishing a legal office there. Already on staff was one lawyer assigned to routine tasks, who reported to the finance department, and a separate anticounterfeit department with two lawyers. We had to consider whether the existing team could be combined into one, what the salaries would be, and to whom China legal would report. After two years of wrestling with those issues, that office is complete. Ultimately, we decided to appoint one of our intellectual property/anti-counterfeit lawyers to head the Shanghai satellite legal office and to hire a junior lawyer to handle most of the general legal work and report to him. We modified the job profile for the top lawyer in our Shanghai office as our understanding of the country’s legal system increased. We decided that to succeed in China, we needed a Chinese national who had some training in a Westernized system and exposure to a multinational company. A Chinese national also had a better chance of acceptance by the local company employees, and would understand the nuances of the culture and the local government. By the same token, we also recognized that past exposure to Western culture is a must in order for that lawyer to work well with senior management at company headquarters in Boston. The country managers and the president of the region welcomed the legal team and have invited the Singapore and China lawyers to serve on their respective operating committees, which include the senior level business managers for each key function. “OpComm” meetings are the site of important decisions and set the strategy for the business. GOING LOCAL What are some of the difficulties in managing an international office? Lawyers in the field can become too closely aligned with that business and forget that their obligation is to the company overall. Communications with remote locations are more difficult, and day-to-day coaching can be strained. Additionally, lawyers in those locations often do not have ready access to big-picture issues and risk becoming parochial in view. With the complexity of matters increasing, there is also a risk of rising outside legal fees unless budgets are developed and religiously followed. To address some of these issues, routine travel for the managing lawyer at headquarters to the satellite offices is a necessary part of the job. And the reverse is also true � annual visits to headquarters for the international team reinforces alignment with the corporate culture. The role of the headquarters manager is to develop the international staff by setting annual objectives and quarterly priorities, establishing a meaningful budget for each location that ties in with those objectives and priorities, and coaching the team using a variety of techniques from telephone to e-mails to regular trips to the field. Putting together an unsurpassed legal team requires patience, diligence, and an appreciation for the rich diversity of the many cultures. Marson is deputy general counsel at The Gillette Company in Boston.

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