Attorney at Law Magazine Salt Lake City publisher John Marciano sat down with TJ England of C.R. England Inc. for the latest installation of “Corner Office” in which we ask corporate counsel what they search for in outside counsel.
AALM: How did you make your transition to corporate counsel? How do you stay connected to the private practice community?
TJE: I frequently attend industry-specific legal conferences throughout the country. It is a great way to get to know lawyers who are familiar with our industry and the particular issues that we face.
AALM: What qualities do you look for when choosing outside counsel for litigation needs?
TJE: In addition to the technical skill and practical experience, I really want to know whether you can tailor your involvement to the actual needs of my business. Some of our best outside lawyers are skilled at understanding what will work and what will not because they have a great knowledge of how our business functions.
AALM: How would you describe your ideal relationship with outside counsel?
TJE: I prefer outside counsel to be an extension of our in-house practice. In addition to providing a critical and objective viewpoint, I look for outside counsel to help us find viable solutions to our problems. For instance, after a recent case was resolved, our defense counsel provided us with several suggestions that would prevent similar claims in the future. This information has been very valuable.
AALM: What major concerns does your company’s CEO or board raise about outside counsel? How do you address those issues?
TJE: The most frequent question I get is whether we are being proactive enough in preventing future litigation. As a result, we frequently address this by hiring consultants or even litigators to provide advice on ways to eliminate claims before they happen.
AALM: What challenges do you face when working with outside counsel?
TJE: Given the large volume of litigation we face, one of our major challenges is staying completely on top of it all. Great lawyers will take the initiative to ensure that the matter is up-to-date and moving appropriately.
AALM: What changes do you see in the future in regards to the relationships between the business and legal community?
TJE: It would appear that there is a trend toward being more proactive and less reactive. Business leaders are looking to inhouse and outside counsel to help them direct the course of the company, rather than just take the call when something has gone wrong. That requires a different level of preparation from the legal community.
AALM: In what areas, do you believe the legal community has fallen behind the business world?
TJE: I’m surprised to see the hourly rate continue to endure. I think that more creative alternative fee arrangements would be a nice development for the legal community.
AALM: How has technology changed your business and your legal needs?
TJE: Even in trucking, technology has completely transformed our business. I have been impressed with some of our outside firms’ acumen in not only understanding the technology that drives our business, but also their skill at e-discovery and data review. As technology continues to develop, I expect that our outside firms will not be caught off-guard by the changing world.
AALM: How would you recommend a law firm maintain a relationship with their business client?
TJE: One of the best ways is to keep us updated on recent developments in the law. One of my favorite lawyers frequently provides me with input when he thinks there is a development specifically related to our business. He knows our business so well that he is a great judge of what information will be helpful to us.
AALM: What advice would you give to attorneys wishing to switch to general counsel?
TJE: Don’t necessarily expect less stress or fewer hours. It can be a very demanding job, but in different ways than private practice. I find it to be very fulfilling to be so closely connected to a client and to help it grow and build.
AALM: What advice would you give to attorneys looking to win your business?
TJE: Get invested. It really shows when someone is invested in their practice and takes great pride in their work. If you haven’t worked for us yet, your investment may show when we meet at a conference or convention and discuss the issues facing our industry. Also, get involved in speaking at events. I’ve made note of several lawyers that I want to hire because they’ve been so impressive when presenting on an area of law.