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The day of the penguin

For legal departments, the new year may not be much different from the last.

A new year dawned on the corporate legal department. Returning to work after the holiday, the legal group was surprised to find a penguin sitting in the middle of their offices. No one knew where it came from—it was just there.

Soon thereafter, a partner from the company’s outside law firm arrived. After a cursory look at the penguin, he pulled the general counsel into a room and advised him that the company needed to conduct a thorough review of the implications of having a penguin on the premises. Fortunately, his firm (with offices around the world) had deep expertise in many areas, and he was fairly certain this included penguins. He would task two first-year associates from St. Louis with researching the “penguin issue,” and get back to him sometime next week.

The CIO stopped by and was alarmed. Penguins were not consistent with the corporate technology infrastructure strategy, and he made it clear that the IT group had no resources to support this penguin. The legal group was on its own as far as IT was concerned. Anything requiring IT support would need to be compliant with the company’s cloud-based, thin-client, smart-grid strategy employing on-demand resource allocation. The CIO’s comments had little impact, for few had deciphered what he said.

Next, a business development representative from a big consulting firm stopped by. She was quick to point out that her firm has firsthand experience addressing the challenges corporate legal departments face. She believed that the penguin actually represented an opportunity to establish strategic management and leadership processes, and implement business efficiencies. The legal department should engage her big consulting firm right away to maximize the resources in today’s competitive legal and business environment.

After lunch, the CFO dropped in, and seeing the penguin his fears were confirmed. Total legal spend in the legal department as a percentage of company revenues compared against industry peers was too high, he explained. None of their peer legal departments had penguins, and this was evidence that the department needed to cut costs.

Later in the afternoon, the sales representative from a legal hold software company made his way in. He explained that Judge Schiendlin had made it clear that written legal holds were required, and arrival of the penguin constituted reasonable anticipation; therefore, the company should quickly consider deploying an automated legal management system. He was followed by an e-discovery vendor, who pointed out that any new event including the arrival of a penguin could trigger preservation obligations. It was very clear that the company needed to outsource its entire e-discovery process to his company. The risks were just too great.

At the end of the day the penguin disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. Some believed its sudden arrival and departure heralded a new and different year for the legal department. Wiser minds knew this was going to be just another year.

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Mark Diamond

Mark Diamond, Founder & CEO of Contoural, Inc., is a regular contributor to Inside Counsel on Litigation Readiness and Records Information Management. You can e-mail...

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