By Erin Geiger Smith
NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Law firms that want to attract
and retain top corporate clients should be willing to give a few
things away for free and play up their associate talent,
according to a panel featuring women from in-house legal
About 100 lawyers gathered at the New York City Bar
Association in Manhattan on Tuesday evening to hear lawyers from
JPMorgan Chase & Co., Marsh & McLennan, The Estee Lauder
Companies, CBS Corporation and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
discuss "how powerful in-house women choose their outside legal
An increasing number of women are serving as general counsel
at Fortune 500 companies (108 in 2011, according to the Minority
Corporate Counsel Association, up seven from 2010 and 23 more
than in 2009), and the event was designed to help them network,
said Angela Rella, a lawyer at Morrison & Foerster and one of
the panel's organizers. Despite the all-women panel, most of the
advice that members gave during the animated hour-long
discussion wasn't gender-specific.
The panel dealt with subjects ranging from being courteous
with staff to offering flexible billing. Among the tips they
--Treat colleagues in and out of the office with respect.
Female in-house counsel are likely to notice when you mistreat
the staff, assistants or associates, said Nancy Loudin, deputy
general counsel of Estee Lauder. That applies as well to outside
counsel communicating with newer in-house counsel. They are also
the firm's client and a conduit to the general counsel's office,
said Hazel-Ann Mayers, an assistant general counsel for CBS.
--Make sure your pitch team includes women. "All things
being equal," the firm with the more diverse lawyers and
paralegals will get repeat work, Loudin said.
--Since midlevel or senior associates handle much of the
early stages of litigation, when a firm pitches a prospective
new client it should bring along "smart associates," said
--If you tout yourself as an expert in a subject, don't bill
for answering an easy question, said Cliona Levy, senior
litigation counsel for insurance brokerage firm Marsh &
--Firm lawyers should never contact the CEO or the head of a
department involved in litigation without talking to the
company's in-house lawyer first. "It makes (the executives)
nervous," said Amy Sandgrund-Fisher, assistant counsel for the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
--Pass along information to in-house counsel, such as a
relevant lawsuit or interesting client alert, but have
reasonable expectations about their response. "Don't stalk,"
Loudin said. Following up with a frustrated tone doesn't help.
--Associates should maintain relationships with in-house
counsel when they change firms. Marsh's Levy said she
appreciates receiving calls from associates she's worked with
before, especially if she knows they can deliver solid results
at a good value.
--Be flexible and creative when proposing fee structures,
whether it's agreeing to a cap on fees for a particular matter
or offering flat fees for each stage of litigation.
--Take the time to respond to requests for proposals.
Filling them out might be time-consuming, but companies keep
them and they could lead to work down the road.
--Think about offering continuing legal education courses at
the company's offices at no charge. These courses give in-house
counsel a chance to understand what a law firm can offer.
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