The folks over at Martindale-Hubbell were nice enough to invite me to their latest Counsel to Counsel Forum in Washington D.C. The forum operates under the rule that “what is said in the room stays in the room” so I will not share any details, but there were a few themes that I think I can share.
The intent of Martindale-Hubbell Counsel to Counsel Forums is to bring together senior corporate counsel and a few law firm partners to share best practices in the management of corporate legal departments, provide an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue about key issues, and to network in a relaxed atmosphere. I think it accomplished those goals.
The two day forum kicked off with panel discussing challenges to building legal teams and ways to better manage in-house/law firm teams. That lead to a break out session that continued some of the discussions. It became clear that big law firms may not understand the pressures that many in-house legal departments are experiencing. Several attendees noted that their budgets had been dramatically slashed. Any law firm sending out a rate increase notice is going to risk getting fired on the spot.
The second day kicked off on a (high?) note with my panel on Technology, Tools & Knowledge Management for High-Performance Legal Teams 2.0. I was joined by Jeff Brandt and Eugene Weitz. I implored the audience to think beyond email. I think one of the ways to build a better legal team is to build better ways to communicate. My earlier post on Extranets for Law Firm and Client Collaboration – Moving Beyond Email embodied most of my points. As Jessica Lipnack taught me, I tried to get around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and bring up an example. We didn’t get very far in the introductions because the discussion really kicked off. One attendee shared a success story with SharePoint. I shared my love/hate relationship with SharePoint.
We moved on to another session about teams, the characteristics of good teams, the characteristics of bad teams, and some ways to covert your team from bad to good.
Of course there were many interjections about Martindale-Hubbell Connected. Thankfully, they were more like product placements than sales pitches. Of course the Forum was on their dime so Martindale had every right to pitch their product. I skipped one session to speak with some of the folks behind Connected. They seem committed to developing the community and continuing to improve it. My take is that they are struggling with how to deal with Web 2.0 and online communities, just like most companies are struggling with it. But they do see the challenges and the opportunities. They are listening to the criticism, learning, and incorporating suggestions into the development of the platform.
I ended the day by chairing the breakout session on compliance, risk, and governance. The attendees in the session were very diverse with very different needs and different concerns. There were several common themes and concerns. Susan Slisz of LexisNexis did a great job helping the organize the discussion. I think everyone in the session had something they could bring back to their company.
If you have the opportunity to attend a Martindale-Hubbell Counsel to Counsel Forum you should go. It will be well worth your time.