Managing Through a Merger: Catching Up With DXC GC William Deckelman

It's been just over four months since the enterprise services division of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and information technology services company Computer Sciences Corp. merged to create DXC Technology Co. As is typically the case when two separate organizations become one, the Tysons, Virginia-based technology company has had to make some changes—including within its legal department.

Guiding DXC's legal team through the transition is executive vice president, general counsel and secretary William Deckelman.

Deckelman previously served as executive vice president and GC for CSC. After the April merger, he continued on to lead the legal department at the newly formed company. While his job has not changed too dramatically, Deckelman has had to make some adjustments.

Corporate Counsel interviewed Deckelman about his position with DXC, the challenges he faces and why he joined the GC Thought Leaders Experiment, which aims to measure legal department relationships with outside counsel in conjunction with GC-led organization AdvanceLaw. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

Corporate Counsel: How did you end up in the GC spot post-merger?

William Deckelman: I became general counsel of Computer Sciences Corp. back in 2008. We announced plans of the merger in May of 2016 and it occurred in April of this year, so we had virtually a year of integration planning. We had countless meetings with both sides in which we met and just really rolled up our sleeves and got into the planning. First, we had to understand how the business was going to operate and then how both legal operations looked and would look after the merger.

Once we merged, I just continued on with DXC. It was pretty much the plan, I think, that John Schultz [executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at HPE] would stay in his role with HPE.

CC: What's changed now that you're at DXC?

WD: In terms of the scope and responsibility of the job, not too much has changed. We're still focused on the same things, [such as] legal, contracting and privacy matters. I will say one difference is we're a bigger department because the company is larger.

And we've also moved government affairs under me. We have a sizable federal government business here in the U.S. and a very sizable public sector business in the U.K. and then we also have a considerable presence in state government markets. Government affairs is really responsible for all the things that go on with the various relationships with those government entities.

CC: Now that the merger is complete, what does the legal department look like?

WD: We had about 400 attorneys and contracting professionals in the legal department, roughly split evenly. But we've now transferred about half of our staff to managed services provider UnitedLex.

The reason we did that is because most of those who went to UnitedLex are contracting lawyers who are, every day, contracting with our customers. It made sense to move that over to a managed services provider because they are set up to handle high volumes of that type of repetitive work.

But we're still managing those lawyers and contracting professionals through the managed services provider, and they are, for the most part, dedicated to our account. When we have an all-hands call for the organization, for example, they are included. So it's a very integrated and inclusive approach.

As for the lawyers we've retained, they are handling, for instance, corporate matters, M&A deals and the other very large transactions we do.

CC: What are the biggest challenges for the legal department?

WD: We just completed the merger in April, so this is in many ways a new company. It's certainly a new organization for legal. The big challenge and priority for us, then, is integrating the two companies, and part of that is becoming more of a lean organization, which means we're looking at ways to put in systems and processes that create efficiencies.

So the real challenge is with all of that going on, at the same time, the legal department is also supporting the business. And we're located all over the place. I would say the largest concentration of our lawyers and contracting professionals is in the U.S., mostly either in Plano, Texas, or [Tysons,] Virginia. The next largest region for the legal department is probably the U.K.

CC: You recently signed on to the GC Thought Leaders Experiment along with a number of other GCs. Why did you get involved?

WD: This whole idea of the experiment came up about a year-and-a-half ago, through conversations that the AdvanceLaw GCs were having. But with all of these ideas we've had, we've just never had the data to tell us what's working and what's not.

With all the pressure to reduce costs [in the legal department] and to reduce outside counsel spend, while at the same time supporting a global business, it's become critical for our company to have more than just an arm's-length relationship with our firms. We really have to have firms that know us and understand our business. This experiment just naturally flows from that to allow us to get more data.

CC: What have you learned from the experiment so far?

WD: The main thing that's come out so far is this concept of the honeymoon period. Over time, law firms can become complacent—and clients probably become complacent, as well—and so they don't really put the time into the relationship to keep it fresh. We're also getting some validation so far that alternative fee arrangements are actually working.

What I'm really curious to see in the long run, when all the data comes in, is how firm partners in midtier firms compare to the larger firms. So: Are clients as satisfied with them as they are the lawyers and partners who cost $1,000 an hour?

Contributing Author

Jennifer Williams-Alvarez

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