Geoffrey Kolander is the executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Austin-based Citizens Inc. Kolander says that outside counsel must understand that his legal department is uncompromising about integrity and accuracy when resolving legal issues.
Texas Lawyer research editor Jeanne Graham emailed Kolander some questions about best practices. His answers are below, edited for length and style.
Texas Lawyer: What criteria do you consider most important when selecting outside counsel?
Geoffrey Kolander: We expect integrity and accuracy from our outside legal counsel. The outside legal counsel we employ understand our priorities and approach in providing legal solutions for our client. As it relates to priorities, we are uncompromising as to integrity and accuracy in resolving legal issues. However, as to approach, we believe flexibility often provides the best solutions. Thus, when we have a difficult legal issue our immediate default is not to employ outside legal counsel. Rather, we view employing outside legal counsel as only one of numerous resources we have at our disposal to ethically and accurately address our client’s legal concerns. Our outside legal counsel appreciate our hands on approach and are not offended when we engage them tactically.
TL: For what types of legal work do you typically hire outside counsel?
Kolander: We primarily hire outside legal counsel for litigation and securities law related matters.
TL: What can outside counsel do to perform beyond your expectations?
Kolander: Our expectations are based on the premise we employ legal expertise properly correlated with the legal issue(s) we are addressing. Typically, our expectations are exceeded when outside legal counsel provide a perspective or solution that simplifies our approach and resolves the matter more cost effectively for our client.
TL: What one thing from your previous work experience is helping you most on the job today, and why?
Kolander: I had the privilege of working as the GC for the founder and CEO of Merrick® pet foods, Garth Merrick. Garth and his son Tyler Merrick were tremendous influences on my life and career. From my experience with them I learned my work is one of the primary ways I will glorify God on this earth. To that end, there have been countless major legal issues I have first submitted to God in prayer and eventually been given the wisdom and insight to properly advise my client. Praying through my client’s legal concerns has given me access to a deep well of insight and Godly wisdom. Outside of God answering my prayers for wisdom, I make a fairly poor lawyer.
TL: What do you see as the most important role you play as general counsel for Citizens Inc.?
Kolander: Problem solver . . . with one important caveat best expressed by Harry S. Truman: “You can accomplish anything in life, provided you don’t mind who gets the credit.”