A Conversation With Six General Counsel

By Firoz Dattu and Catherine Cook

This article originally appeared in Corporate Counsel. Reprinted with permission.

What is a hypothesis we’re testing that you find interesting?

Brian Levey, Upwork: The honeymoon period hypothesis is interesting to me. Clients become the ‘bright shiny object’ upon engaging a firm, but what happens to performance over time? I’d be interested to know what works in staying a priority at the firm.

Lee Reichert, Molson Coors: I’m interested to see how the performance of firms in the biggest cities compares to that of firms elsewhere – on things like quality, responsiveness, outcomes, and expertise. Are there differences? Given the breadth of our business, this finding can influence how we make counsel selection decisions.

Josh Sherbin, TriMas: The discussion on alternative fee arrangements seems to be all about cost and negotiating down to the dollar. It would be nice to see from the data whether and how non-hourly fee arrangements fit with satisfying, strategic client-firm relationships.

Damien Atkins, Panasonic: I’d like to stress-test flat fees and success fees. Since they affect partner compensation, often creating financial uncertainty, they’re likely to change behavior and may impact work product and client service. I’m curious to see what the data will show.

Bill Deckelman, DXC Technology: As we just worked with you in selecting our panel of strategic partner firms, I would like to see what the data says about law firm panels.

Brian Chevlin, Pernod Ricard: I’d like to test that out as well. My belief is that having a preferred set of firms – once we’ve identified the highest-performers – is the ideal state, as the firms get to know our business. Related, what can we do to make panels especially valuable for us and the firms?

Why are you a part of this experiment?

Brian Chevlin, Pernod Ricard: We need to examine old assumptions and paradigms that may not hold true anymore. My experience is that law firms are open to this type of dialogue, where it’s an opportunity to improve relationships, rather than for clients to beat up firms.

Damien Atkins, Panasonic: We talk a lot about client service, but what does it really mean? There’s a mythology around what great client service is, but we’d like to bring analytical rigor to the discussion.

Brian Levey, Upwork: It’s good to be part of an initiative trying to improve the status quo through data. Specifically, it will be interesting to learn how to be the client of choice – the client that firms are really excited about – with the overall goal being quality assurance and getting the best teams.

Why can’t this be done at the company level?

Lee Reichert, Molson Coors: The cross-company experience and data will help us find commonalities – we’ll see what consistently works to forge strong, high-value relationships with firms.

Josh Sherbin, TriMas: Without looking at other clients’ practices and experiences, we can’t know what works best. I’d like to learn from different approaches, so we can adopt and build upon them.

Fast-forward a year or so – what does a win look like for this experiment?

Lee Reichert, Molson Coors: A win here is jump-starting conversations between clients and forward-thinking firms. I know the plan is to bring in the law firms to get their reactions and input once we’ve collected more data and performed some early analysis, and I think that’s a great idea.

Bill Deckelman, DXC Technology: I’d like to see broad validation amongst GCs about what works, so we can move toward best practice and enjoy rewarding relationships with firms. It will also be interesting to see which in-house practices don’t work – we could eliminate some time-intensive practices.

Any other comments or thoughts?

Lee Reichert, Molson Coors: To me, this experiment is a natural extension of what we’re all doing at AdvanceLaw – it’s another way to create meaningful relationships between GCs and law firms.

Josh Sherbin, TriMas: This initiative should be understood as a practical, data-based commitment to understand how the client-firm relationship can work better for all parties. All involved are rolling up their sleeves to look at relevant data – instead of just kicking around theories.

Spread the word: