Getting to the top takes hard work and perseverance. But staying on top requires constant innovation and reinvention. That's a mantra this year's IC 10 winners know well and one they've implemented to achieve tremendous success in their legal departments.
Whether it's simplifying the RFP process down from dozens of unnecessary pages to three pages and a tweet or creating an in-house version of Wikipedia that synthesizes the whole department's knowledge, our winners have developed inventive solutions that have launched their legal departments to a higher level.
Healthnow New York: On Track
During 16 years as an attorney and assistant general counsel in the HealthNow New York Inc. legal department, Ken Sodaro became acutely aware of several operational shortcomings. These included an uneven distribution of work among the department's five attorneys; a perception by many business clients that legal was a black hole into which their requests for assistance disappeared; and a failure to track the progress of matters the department was handling.
Cisco: Making Connections
With offices in locales as far flung as Shanghai and San Jose, Calif., Cisco is long past the days when one of its attorneys could pop into a colleague's office for a casual conversation. Yet there's tremendous value in being able to collaborate easily and informally, even across oceans. E-mail is one way to do that, but it doesn't necessarily include everyone in the conversation. And with the rapid rate of change in legal information, a company as spread out as Cisco needs a way to efficiently and uniformly update its legal department's knowledge base.
Yeshiva University: Mission Driven
During the past three years, law firms have done more than $1 million worth of legal work for Yeshiva University--for free. That's because Andrew Lauer, Yeshiva's general counsel, has leveraged the interest of alumni, as well as others who support the Jewish university's mission, beyond mere well wishes and into tangible results.
In 2007, aware that IP protection is no longer central only to those traditional research and development units embedded in manufacturing and tech companies, the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. launched an Intellectual Property Law Unit to centralize the evaluation and protection of IP created by the insurance/financial services company's numerous business divisions.
Qwest: Ethics Effort
Go to any legal conference and you're likely to find standing room only in the ethics sessions, now that many state bars mandate ethics credits as part of the CLE requirement for attorney registration renewal.
Transamerica Life Insurance Company: Learn then Leverage
At Transamerica, a branch of the Netherlands-based insurance, pension and investment group AEGON N.V., the corporate law department's goal is to learn, then leverage that information for the benefit of the company. As the corporate legal team, the department is expected to spot important trends that affect the business unit legal departments, analyze them and then propose remediation to prevent damage to the company. The challenge was finding an effective way to share relevant information with the company's many business and legal departments.
DuPont: Paralegal Aid
In 1992, DuPont's legal department went through a transformation. Management wanted to cut costs, increase productivity, improve the quality of its services, open the door to new opportunities for its staff and solidify relationships with its client and service providers. It took time, but the effort paid off, evolving into the most well-known best practices system within the corporate legal discipline--the DuPont Legal Model.
Westfield Insurance: Waking the Grade
Law firms often complain that while inside counsel are quick to challenge their fees, they are much less likely to provide feedback on performance. Sometimes the first indication that the client isn't satisfied comes with a notice that the relationship is being terminated.
FMC Technologies: Reinventing the RFP
In 2008 FMC Technologies spun off its airport and food equipment businesses--and with them, more than 60 percent of the company's litigation, many of the company's litigation firms and several in-house lawyers. Fifteen cases remained, only two of which were significant.
Tastefully Simple: Breakfast of Champions
When Christy Caspers arrived at Tastefully Simple nearly eight years ago as chief legal officer, she was its first and only in-house counsel. Not surprisingly, she had her hands full--particularly sorting through the mismanaged contracts.