Marvin Tenenbaum is the top lawyer for Berkeley Research Group LLC, a consulting firm that provides expert testimony, litigation and regulatory support to law firms. It also provides strategic advice and document-data analytics to law firms, Fortune 500 corporations and government agencies.
BRG’s experts have been involved in the litigation between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Ltd., the Solyndra Inc. bankruptcy and fraud cases related to Peregrine Financial Group Inc. The company also has consulted on damages in mortgage-backed securities cases and on aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
Based in Emeryville, Calif., BRG operates from 23 offices in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United King­dom. In 2012, the firm rang up $150 million in revenue. It employs about 550.
Founded in 2009, BRG expanded by bringing in professionals from established companies in the same field — consultancies including LECG LLC and Peterson Consulting LLC. "It’s not like we were selling our first widget," Tenenbaum said.
LEGAL TEAM AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL
Tenenbaum leads a five-member team — three lawyers and two coordinators — including his son, Adam, who serves as deputy general counsel. The legal group handles 95 percent of BRG’s work in-house, but when Tenenbaum needs outside counsel he turns to Atlanta-based Alston & Bird and Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone of Detroit for general legal matters; Chicago’s Daspin & Aument for real estate work; Stikeman Elliott as Canadian counsel; and Withers as U.K. counsel.
The company generally pays outside counsel by the hour. Alternative billing "has never really come up," Tenenbaum said. "We pay our counsel on an hourly basis and monitor their billings based on our own experience in handling similar matters." And outside counsel are "mindful of cost," Tenenbaum said — he rarely has to question fees or expenses. Regarding his in-house hiring criteria, "The attorneys I hire must be people I have worked with and whose excellent work I have seen over a number of years. Counsel in non-U.S. countries are hired on the basis of recommendations from other counsel and on their reputation for providing excellent service."
The company has discussed bringing in another attorney. If that happens, Tenenbaum will look for academic excellence, intellectual curiosity and a keen interest in client service, he said.
Tenenbaum considers pro bono work an important aspect of the legal profession, but his company doesn’t require it of staff attorneys. Diversity is also important to BRG, and Tenenbaum oversees staff training in that regard. BRG has not signed the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge or the Diversity Call to Action.
Tenenbaum arrives at his office in Chicago at about 8:45 a.m. and leaves by 7:30 p.m., fielding questions from the West Coast office after hours. He might check emails after dinner.
There’s no typical day, he said. He receives around 200 emails per day and more than a dozen "Marv, I have a problem" phone calls. These cover a wide range of topics, including an expert’s work on an engagement, a lease matter or employment issues.
He may field questions about setting up new subsidiaries, establishing banking relationships, recruiting new experts, setting up the next board of directors meeting, establishing policies for human resources or reviewing marketing materials.
Accordingly, he prefers to delegate when possible. "I have assigned duties to the members of our team, and I have advised our employees of those duties and I let my legal team do their jobs," he said. "I am fortunate that I have people working with me whom I trust implicitly and whose judgment I can rely on. If a question arises for them, they have no problem coming to me for specific advice." He considers himself a legal generalist.
Tenenbaum assists in marketing and business development, and each year he puts together BRG’s Veteran’s Day honor roll. "All of our employees tell us about their own or family members’ military service and we compile the list into an honor roll we send out to all our employees," he said. "It has really provided a bond among our colleagues."
Asked to name a career highlight, he said, "It is now. Helping take a ­company from having not even a paper clip to where we are now has been amazing."
Tenenbaum reports to David Teece, BRG’s founder, chairman and principal executive officer.
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Following his graduation from Northwestern University in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, Tenenbaum earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1976. He knew he wanted to be a lawyer "early on," he said. His inspiration? "To Kill a Mockingbird. Like many other law students, I wanted to be Atticus Finch."
Following law school, Tenenbaum clerked for Judge Joel Flaum, then sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, now of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
His first law firm position was in 1978 at Sachnoff, Schrager, Jones, Weaver & Rubinstein (later Sachnoff & Weaver), where he rose to partner. In 1983, he joined Fox & Grove, focusing on commercial litigation. Later that year, he became a partner at Alexander, Unikel, Zalewa, Bloom & Tenenbaum. In 1988, he joined his brother Sam Tenenbaum at his firm, Tenenbaum & Senderowitz.
In 1993, he took his first in-house job as general counsel at Peterson Consulting. In 1998, he became general counsel of operations at Navigant Consulting (after it acquired Peterson Consulting), and then returned to Sachnoff & Weaver in 2000 as of counsel. In 2001, he joined LECG as general counsel and secretary. He became chief legal officer in 2007. Two years later, he joined BRG.
His advice for someone stepping into a general counsel role? "Only say ‘no’ when it is the only answer," he said. "It is easy when an issue comes to your attention that is problematic to just say, ‘No.’ But it’s your job to find solutions and not be a roadblock. The people at your company do not work for you; you work for them. If they can’t do their jobs and be successful, you don’t get paid."
A native of Akron, Ohio, Tenenbaum likes to spend time with his grandchild­ren. He also plays the "occasional round of golf." His wife, Lynn, is a homemaker. They have two sons: Jason, 36, and Adam, 34. They have five grandchildren.
LAST BOOK AND MOVIE
The last book Tenenbaum read was Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. The last movie he saw was Zero Dark Thirty.