The final line of former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty’s pitch to potential clients says it all: “Don’t wait until it’s too late.”
McNulty, while at Main Justice, wrote a memo that corporations still use to help them determine how to respond to allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Since arriving in private practice in 2007, McNulty has shaped a practice at Baker & McKenzie advising corporations on what they should do before any such allegations even surface.
McNulty, 54, spent his first few months at Baker traveling around the world to meet with clients. He began to realize, he said, how the government’s enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other statutes makes it almost impossible for global companies, with many employees in many different countries, to avoid investigations.
“It was natural to think they needed to find ways to offer the best defense if something did go wrong,” McNulty said. Instead of reacting once the government comes calling, McNulty began advising clients on the front end, figuring out weaknesses in their compliance programs and eliminating them.
“If something goes wrong, there’s even a better story to tell the government about the efforts to prevent the misconduct,” McNulty said. “You want the government to see the company in as proactive a prevention effort as possible.”
He also took the novel approach of establishing a consulting arm that works side-by-side with Baker & McKenzie lawyers to design cost-effective compliance programs, perform risk assessments and develop training materials.
The approach also helps to secure work in the future; clients who seek advice on compliance tend to go back to the same lawyers to get help on the reactive side as well, McNulty said.
McNulty’s role at the Department of Justice, where in 2006 he announced a revised set of attorney-client privilege protocols for prosecutors who were investigating corporations, left many of Baker’s clients interested in getting his personal opinion.
But it was Baker’s global platform that helped foster his approach.
“I was fortunate to be in a situation where that sort of initiative was possible,” McNulty said.