When law departments talk, the legal industry tends to listen. And this is almost never more true than when those in-house are opining about their ever-important relationship with law firms. Sometimes what they have to say is flattering. But other times, not so much. Here are five of the most intriguing insights we’ve heard from California legal department decision-makers about those their dynamics with law firms.
Elizabeth “Boo” Baker, general counsel, Twitch Interactive Inc. - “The best outside counsel is the one that knows your business, inside and out. So they’re not just serving in an expert capacity where they’re just providing you with legal analysis without placing it squarely within the context of your business. A lot of that, it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Kim Rivera, chief legal officer & general counsel, HP Inc. - “My department [has] been focusing on diversity and inclusion and wanted to talk about what we could do that innovative, different and bold that would help address what we view as a very stubborn problem that the legal profession and particularly Big Law has been unable to solve despite the focus and attention of lots of people for decades."
Catherine Lacavera, director of IP litigation at Google. - “Some law firms have made great progress on diversity, but many firms still have a long way to go, particularly at more senior levels. We have a very diverse in-house team and we are promoting diversity in our hiring practices.
Mark Chandler, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer, Cisco Systems Inc. - [Chandler] was talking with a Big Law firm attorney in New York one recent morning about a project they were working on. Chandler wanted the attorney to see the project from his business standpoint and quipped, “General counsel are from Saturn and outside counsel are from Jupiter.” The attorney thought the riff on the 1992 book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” was funny. “But I was serious,” says Chandler, who wants his outside counsel to have a “business alignment.”
Amy Weaver, general counsel and president of legal, Salesforce Inc. - “...I really value civility and basically at the end of the day, politeness. And we had a terrific national law firm come in to pitch us on work about two years ago, top notch job. At the end of the presentation they asked if I would retain them. So I complimented them on the presentation and said, no. And the reason was, a partner from a different part of their firm had been on the opposite side of us in a case earlier that year and he had simply been awful. He knew his job legally, but at the end of the day, he was rude, he was belittling and he thought the way to win a case was to be a bully. And I told them that was not the way I wanted Salesforce to be represented, that’s not the way I wanted to be represented."
Sam Fernandez, senior vice president and general counsel, Los Angeles Dodgers - “One of the pieces of advice I would give to someone starting in the [baseball] business is to rely on outside counsel a lot more than I [did when I was] starting in the business,” he said. “Because everything has gotten a lot more complicated.”