X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Lee Weiner is senior vice president, secretary, and general counsel at XO Communications, a telecommunications company based in Reston, Va. In 2004, XO had revenue of approximately $1.3 billion and about 5,000 employees. Weiner oversees all of the company’s legal affairs. Can you talk a little bit about the company and what it offers? XO offers an array of telecommunications services. We provide our services, including local and long-distance voice, Internet access, private data networking, and Web-hosting services, through a national telecommunications network. In addition, XO owns licenses to deliver telecommunications services through local multipoint distribution service (LMDS) wireless spectrum in the largest U.S. cities. We market our services primarily to business customers, ranging from small and medium-sized businesses to Fortune 500 companies to carrier and wholesale customers, as well as to federal and state governments. How many in-house lawyers do you have, and what is the structure of the law department? The XO legal department has 15 attorneys, with the majority of attorneys focused principally on sales and marketing support. A significant percentage of legal work is devoted to negotiating customized contracts for the sale of voice, data, Web-hosting, and other services for our customers’ telecom networks. In order to be more responsive to our nationwide sales force, there are several attorneys based in other cities � such as New York, Seattle, Dallas, and Memphis. This type of structure facilitates a closer working relationship with clients and allows the attorneys to interact more closely with the sales force. We also have attorneys who handle various other legal matters, such as litigation, employment law, government contracts, intellectual property, securities/SEC compliance, corporate governance, and M&A matters. To whom do you report? I report to CEO Carl Grivner. What are the biggest legal issues your company faces? What are your biggest personal challenges on the job? There have been several recent seminal decisions by both the [Federal Communications Commission] and the courts that directly impact the telecom industry’s competitive landscape. Many of these decisions influence the deployment of new technologies such as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and broadband services. Additionally, XO Communications is a public company and the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been both challenging and burdensome for many public companies. Because of that, we have to spend more resources on individual review processes, briefing senior executives, and securing internal certifications and subcertifications It also involves working closely with the audit committee of the board of directors � and I haven’t even mentioned the cost component of compliance. What outside firms do you use on a regular basis, and for what? Early in my career as an inside counsel, I adopted a philosophy of hiring lawyers and not necessarily law firms. Thus, while many law firms understandably want to institutionalize the relationships with their clients and handle a multitude of legal matters across a broad spectrum, I tend to focus on attorneys who have accomplished good results for XO in their respective areas of expertise. Although we try to limit the number of firms we use, the workload is usually allocated according to our needs at any given time. While XO tries to handle as much work as possible in-house, we use the following law firms: Kellye Drye & Warren, and Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo (regulatory matters); Willkie Farr & Gallagher (securities and corporate matters); DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, and Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels (M&A); Morrison & Foerster (litigation, procurement, and government contracts); Collier Shannon Scott, and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner (IP and Internet); and Jackson Lewis (employment law). What’s your background? I am a private practice refugee � I started at Keller and Heckman in Washington, D.C. � but I have not looked back since becoming an inside counsel almost 20 years ago. After leaving private practice, I was fortunate to join MCI during the mid-1980s when it was a renegade company focused on attacking AT&T’s market power in the long-distance industry. After eight years at MCI (and well before all of the accounting fraud) I left to become general counsel at LCI International Inc., a long-distance company. LCI was a wonderful professional experience. When I joined the company in 1994, it was generating about $400 million in annual revenue and yet was unprofitable. By the time LCI was acquired by Qwest in mid-1998, the company was generating about $2 billion in annualized revenue and was profitable. After becoming acting general counsel of Qwest in 1998, for a variety of reasons, including my family not wanting to relocate from the Washington area, I left in 1999. In 1999, I became general counsel of Net2000 Communications Inc., a startup local telecom company. Net2000 epitomized the telecom industry’s roller coaster ride that characterized the late 1990s. The company completed a successful IPO in early March 2000, right before the Nasdaq started to plummet, and filed for bankruptcy about two years later. The experience at Net2000 encompassed the full panoply of legal challenges, including the IPO and subsequent bankruptcy filing. From a general counsel perspective, it was very rewarding to do an IPO, particularly when the stock market was so strong and many telecom company stock prices were hitting their all-time high. After working with the bankruptcy trustee to wind down Net2000′s operations, I joined XO in 2003. What is the best part of the job? I am blessed to be surrounded by a team of dedicated, talented, and responsive attorneys. Also, because of the dynamic changes occurring in the telecom industry, there have been several developments that require the melding of business decisions with the changing legal and regulatory landscape. I think many inside counsel enjoy being on the front line of working closely with different functional areas of their companies to further the business goals. At XO, the attorneys work as part of a collaborative effort to accomplish those goals. There is also a diverse range of legal projects that emerge as a result of working for a publicly held, high-tech company. As a case in point, there have been a few recent rulings as to whether access charges should apply to certain types of VoIP services. The XO legal and regulatory departments are tasked with advising marketing and sales personnel as to how these rulings impact the company’s service offerings and our costs of offering the services. A lot of in-house lawyers appreciate not just sitting behind a desk and cranking out documents. While each general counsel has his or her own approach, I want lawyers to feel like they’re making a difference in the company and making a quantifiable contribution. I encourage them to interact with executive management and not to be reluctant to have a direct dialogue with various executives. Many of them do and, as a result, I hope that they find their jobs more challenging and enriching. When you’re not at the office, where might we find you? You will find me in a spinning class on most weekend mornings and, when the weather gets warmer, on a bike trail. Earlier this year, I completed a marathon in Phoenix, Ariz., to raise money for charity and, aware of the many miles of training ahead of me, I recently registered to participate in the Marine Corps Marathon. What’s the best book you’ve read recently? I recently read Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About the Bike, which depicts his perspective on focusing on what is truly important in life. What about hobbies? I guess I should mention that there is probably a nexus between my career in the telecom industry and the fact that I collect antique telephones. At one point in time before the advent of cell phones and VoIP, the world was analog. I got my first antique telephone at a flea market in Georgetown, then my collection just kind of mushroomed. I started receiving them as gifts for anniversaries and birthdays and now I have about 40 of them. In contrast, my teenage kids can’t wait to load newfangled features on their cell phones.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.