I am a business attorney who accepted a corporate client’s invitation to run one of its divisions. Until moving from the lawyer side of the table to the client side, I had only a superficial grasp of how lawyers help – or hurt – a business.
After the University of Pennsylvania Law School, I practiced with a Wall Street firm, then tried cases to juries in Manhattan, and later served as associate general counsel in a Fortune 500 company. Then I moved over to the client side.
Only in becoming a general manager did I recognize the waste that law firms and in-house counsel design into their workflows – waste that I estimate at 20 to 40% of what companies pay them. And only after leaving my legal silo to view the business through the P&L did I realize that it’s a lot better to prevent a legal problem in the first place than to win a case in court.
After a decade at Whirlpool Financial and GE Capital – as a transportation finance executive at each – I founded my own law and regulatory compliance practice – emphasizing transportation. I also taught international transactions in a law school, consulted for the Center for Strategic & International Studies (Washington, D.C.) in transportation policy, served as Vice Chair for transportation regulation of the American Bar Association’s Homeland Security Committee, and worked for people who couldn’t afford to pay me – with federal and state courtroom wins in family law, housing and civil rights.
Now I consult with business owners and executives on how to cut costs in their legal and regulatory functions by 20 to 40%, and on how to prevent liability in the first place. These are the same cost control and management disciplines to which those owners and executives hold all of their other corporate functions – but that the legal profession (for the most part) stubbornly resists applying to its own work.
“Only in becoming a general manager did I recognize the waste that law firms and in-house counsel design into their workflows – waste that I estimate at 20 to 40% of what companies pay them.”