ACC Focus on the Colorado Chapter - June 30, 2008 (Print All Articles)
Adding Value – it’s more than just the “Bottom Line”
Giving practical and accurate legal advice: Absolutely essential. Being a productive member of the legal department: Valuable. Being productive and well liked personally by your colleagues inside and outside the legal department: Priceless!
In-house lawyers continuously face the challenge of demonstrating how they add value to the company. My experience is that there is no lack of hurdles, but there are very few tangible elements, that factor into the value-add equation. Sure – you can use productivity in the form of quicker turn-around times on legal matters. Or you can point to a reduction in outside counsel expenses. But the equation starts from the premise that the legal department is a cost center. And in the eyes of many business managers, the legal department’s sole function is to hinder the development of new products and services.
Nevertheless, the legal unit, like any other department, must hold itself open to scrutiny. One means of accomplishing this is by conducting “client satisfaction” surveys, where in-house clients can opine on the legal department’s performance. I recently presented this opportunity to approximately twenty of my corporate colleagues, all of whom have regular dealings with the legal department. Despite the fact that it was a very informal, spur of the moment survey, it provided encouraging feedback that otherwise would have remained unspoken.
This was a one-question survey: What do you like most about your in-house legal department? (Okay, the question may have been slightly slanted in our favor, but I figure we hear regularly from our clients on what they don’t like about the legal department. Also, a lack of response was interpreted, as “there’s nothing to like about the legal department”. ) One respondent suggested, “you'd probably get more responses if you asked "what (or who) do you like least?” And another respondent added, “You sent this to Marketing. You're a very gutsy lady, Jean!” Here are few more of the lighthearted responses:
“The only real downside with our legal team is they don't keep good snacks on their desks. I have to mooch elsewhere.”
On a more serious note, what respondents most often conveyed was their satisfaction with the legal department’s availability, accessibility, and the legal staff’s ability to be “regular” folks, while simultaneously being able to respond intelligently to questions on various legal issues.
“Having in house legal counsel provides me with expedient advice for personnel issues especially in the area of legal summons, liens and garnishments. The laws change so quickly that the legal staff knows right where to go to find out the newest laws that prevail over my problem.”
And my personal favorite –
I’ve yet to come across a value-add equation or a law department metrics model where personal attributes, e.g. “likeability”, and department procedures, e.g. accessibility, are given appropriate consideration. However, asking for feedback and using the direct approach survey method resulted in valuable responses speaking to those factors specifically. Indeed, I would contend that the value-add equation and other metrics models should be built upon these attributes. because they directly impact the perceived value of the legal department. Being viewed as congenial, credible, and accessible are crucial factors for the success of a legal department. These factors can impact motivation, productivity, and overall, the company’s bottom line.
Of course, one of the most fundamental roles of the in-house legal function is to offer accurate and practical legal advice. But credibility is not always guaranteed by advising on complex or obscure areas of law. Credibility can be sought high up within the company, but it is your reputation, personally and professionally, that ultimately “cascades” down. Just remember, it’s priceless!
Real Employee Issues in a Virtual Workplace*
By Tanya E. Milligan, Holland and Hart
How do you regulate the use of Internet and communication technology in the workplace to avoid litigation?
Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Air Lines’ flight attendant, was fired for posting photos of herself in uniform on her personal Internet blog. ** Ms. Simonetti sued her former employer for wrongful termination, discrimination and defamation. Although the merit, if any, of Ms. Simonetti’s claims is still unresolved,*** avoiding such litigation and its associated costs motivates employers to take steps to address employee use of computer and information systems.
[*] A more comprehensive discussion of these issues had been published in “Blogging in the Virtual Age;” (co-Authored with Steve Gutierrez) Privacy & Data Security Law Journal, Volume 3, Number 4, April 2008.
For more information about Ms. Milligan, please visit Holland and Hart's website at http://www.hollandhart.com.
Project Homeless Connect wins award from Colorado Lawyers Committee
ACC Board Member Len Segreti Honored
The Colorado Lawyers Committee held its 29th Annual Meeting at the Denver Marriott City Center on Tuesday, May 20, 2008. Over 450 attorneys and community leaders were in attendance.
The Project Homeless Connect Team was honored with the 2007 Team of the Year Award: Tim Macdonald and Susan Cole (Arnold & Porter LLP), Peter Schwartz (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP), Len Segreti (Qwest Law Department) and Alice Norman (Denver Municipal Indigent Defense Counsel). This group organized and provided leadership for the legal component to the City of Denver’s Project Homeless Connect, an effort which at least twice a year links almost 1,000 homeless individuals to legal information, medical services and resources for public benefits, housing, employment and other valuable services.
The Colorado Lawyers Committee is a 30-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium of 50 Denver-area law firms dedicated to providing and increasing opportunities for children, the poor and other disadvantaged communities through high impact pro bono work. The Colorado Lawyers Committee currently has more than 15 Task Forces working on projects in the areas of poverty and public benefits, civil rights, education, immigration, community development and criminal law.
ACC would like to thank the most recent group of volunteers for their hard work at the May 9th Project Homeless Connect event:
Mark Your Calendars for these upcoming ACC Events!
Thursday, July 10
Wednesday, August 13 The Colorado Rockies v the Arizona Diamondbacks
Join us for a night of fun as the Colorado Rockies take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. We're excited to host the event again this year in the Quandary Peak Suite at Coors Field. Located along the third base line, the suite features an air-conditioned indoor lounge, with high-top tables and bar stools, and outdoor balcony seating. Ball-park staples like pizza, hot dogs, brats and soft drinks are included in the cost. So mark your calendars and make your reservations now! ACC members may bring up to three guests. Reserve your spot now by calling the ACC Colorado Chapter office at 303-757-1847. Thursday, August 28
Thursday, July 10
Wednesday, August 13
The Colorado Rockies v the Arizona Diamondbacks
Join us for a night of fun as the Colorado Rockies take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. We're excited to host the event again this year in the Quandary Peak Suite at Coors Field. Located along the third base line, the suite features an air-conditioned indoor lounge, with high-top tables and bar stools, and outdoor balcony seating.
Ball-park staples like pizza, hot dogs, brats and soft drinks are included in the cost. So mark your calendars and make your reservations now! ACC members may bring up to three guests.
Reserve your spot now by calling the ACC Colorado Chapter office at 303-757-1847.
Thursday, August 28