Attorney at Law Magazine Salt Lake City Publisher John Marciano sat down with Jay Zynczak to discuss his career and his transition to corporate counsel.
AALM: How did you make your transition to corporate counsel?
Zynczak: I made the transition to corporate counsel via an existing client who happened to be looking for a general counsel. It also dovetailed nicely with my desire at the time to move out to Utah from the Bay Area. It was a win-win. Now, I work with Goal Zero, the industry leader in renewable, portable power. From phones to fridges and everything in between, our solar panels, rechargers and accessories give you the power to go farther, regardless of your gear’s battery life.
AALM: What qualities do you look for when choosing outside counsel for litigation needs?
Zynczak: Knowledgeable in his or her field, unflappable, great courtroom presence, well prepared and thorough, and a sense that I’ll be comfortable spending a good deal of time with this person under sometimes difficult circumstances.
AALM: How would you describe your ideal relationship with outside counsel?
Zynczak: A good resource, who achieves the results we seek, who keeps me updated and accomplishes results in a timely manner, with minimal or on-budget costs.
AALM: What major concerns does your company’s CEO or board raise about outside counsel? How do you address those issues?
Zynczak: Costs. I try to negotiate the best fee arrangements I can with our firms. In some cases, we use flat fee arrangements for certain types of work.
AALM: What challenges do you face when working with outside counsel?
Zynczak: Staying abreast of what and how much work is being done on our behalf across the firms we use. I once received an invoice from a firm that just stated “Attention to matter” in the description line – obviously not enough information to know what exactly they were billing us for.
AALM: What changes do you see in the future in regards to the relationships between the business and legal community? Zynczak: I hope that the business world will stop looking at attorneys and law firms as a last resort solution to a pending problem and instead look at working with firms to build the underpinnings of their businesses (IP protection, corporate formation, solid contracts) the right way from the start. Doing so will alleviate many of the issues businesses face as they grow.
AALM: In what areas, do you believe the legal community has fallen behind the business world?
Zynczak: It’s getting better but I still think the adaptation and use of new technologies is slower in the legal profession than in the business world. There are some valid reasons for this but it can create bottlenecks in working relationships with outside counsel.
AALM: How has technology changed your business and your legal needs?
Zynczak: Everything is faster and more accessible. I can get answers we need almost anywhere and at any time. It also means I’m not tied to my office, which is both good and bad.
AALM: How would you recommend a law firm maintain a relationship with their business client?
Zynczak: Above all, be collegial and be responsive. There’s nothing better than knowing I can count on you. Also, offer something that I can’t get from another firm. Are there CLE programs that you sponsor that are available to your client’s attorneys? Do you offer nontraditional legal services or fee arrangements that make you unique?
AALM: What advice would you give to attorneys wishing to switch to general counsel?
Zynczak: Network. Network. Network. Go to business and tech related events to meet people in the business world. Look at the portfolio companies of the local VC firms to see who’s getting funded. Check out sites like Silicon Slopes, the Utah Technology Council, Tech Crunch, and others – they are a great source of information on what’s happening, who’s hiring, who’s considering an IPO, use LinkedIn to see who you may have a connection to on their management team, and then reach out to them to meet in person, even if it’s just for coffee. Personal connections go a long way.
AALM: What advice would you give to attorneys looking to win your business?
Zynczak: Do research in advance. Figure out what my company does and what type of legal issues we may be facing and show me that your firm has both expertise in a particular area and the breadth of skills and knowledge to help us on different matters. And show me value in comparison to all the other firms out there.