As the editor of InsideCounsel, I sometimes have the opportunity to speak to different groups of people about the corporate in-house legal profession. For the most part, I discuss what we at InsideCounsel are observing within the profession—be it a shift in the regulatory environment, the increased use of alternative fee arrangements or simply the greater use of various best practices, to name a few. Since the beginning of the year, that opportunity has come up twice, and I happily obliged.
At these two events—both catering to legal marketing professionals—I moderated panels of general counsel who discussed building and maintaining healthy relationships with their outside firms. At InsideCounsel, we have covered the relationship between in-house and outside counsel for years. In fact, in our March issue, our cover story, “Small Wonder,” focused on best practices for GCs looking to hire small or regional law firms. So the topic was appropriate for me, and timely for the speakers as well as the audience.
Both sessions turned into lively conversations between the in-house panelists and the engaged audience. Topics discussed included understanding the GC’s business, managing cost and how it relates to law firms, how law firms can best communicate their messages to in-house counsel, and the best tools and technology for efficient collaboration.
The big takeaways from these sessions were that most in-house counsel—particularly general counsel—are first business people, and second lawyers. They want their firms to keep them abreast of important issues and protect their interests but not waste their time.
At the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference, one of the key quotes of the session titled “How GC-Law Firm Collaboration Leads to Success” came from Jeff Carr, SVP, GC and secretary of FMC Technologies Inc. Carr said, while talking to one of his outside lawyers, the gentleman summed up exactly how Carr wants to be viewed by his firms. “He said to me, ‘Jeff, you are my most important and least significant client,’” Carr recalled, explaining that he meant FMC’s business remains top of mind to the lawyer while the company mostly stays out of trouble.
Although both of these sessions were directed at legal marketers, who learned a lot from the content, the GCs themselves clearly learned a lot from one another. And it was a pleasure to be a part of both of these panels.