Editor's Comment - Get Advice From Leaders About Globalization

Monday, June 1, 2009 - 00:00

Bright Ideas - Insights From Legal Luminaries Worldwide edited by E. Leigh Dance is aptly titled. This is one of the best books I have read for corporate counsel of actual (or aspiring) global corporations - and a fascinating read. I could not put it down until I had read every page.

Leigh probably knows a greater number of the principal actors in the ongoing drama of law department and law firm globalization than anyone else in the world. Her skill as a consultant and presenter of ideas is unique.The book consists of 26 essays by some of those with whom she has worked. I found each one of great interest. Her great talent is that in each of the essays she has encouraged the author to share his or her secrets of successful globalization with the reader.

We, too, know a number of the authors whose essays are included in the book. We can testify on the basis of personal experience with the authors or their organizations that in each case Leigh has managed to coax from the authors the most important insights (Bright Ideas) they bring to the discussion of globalization.

Let me give you an illustration of Leigh's magic. I worked with Leigh in connection with a series of seminars she produced to introduce an English global firm to an American audience. The firm bears no resemblance to the stuffy firms that one encounters in Dickens. In presenting the firm to potential U.S. clients, she countered that stereotype and emphasized those characteristics that made it so attractive to me - and the major U.S. clients that now use it.

What were those characteristics? I thought the firm was worthy of being brought to the attention of our readers because its key people, who had turned it into a major global force, had characteristics that reminded me of the lawyers in a small firm that I identified over 40 years ago as meeting the needs of our fledgling legal department for expertise in issues affecting retailers. The "white shoe firms" of the time were not interested in that area. They preferred to deal with "green goods" rather than "soft goods."

I immediately recognized that the young members of that once-small U.S. firm were highly qualified and very flexible about taking on new challenges - and it not only enthusiastically created new practice areas to meet those challenges, but, on its own initiative, it independently invested its efforts in becoming counsel to trade associations and national business organizations that intersected frequently with our needs.That U.S. firm subsequently grew to become one of largest firms in the world.Leigh created in those seminars a feeling that the English firm, like our U.S. firm, would go the extra mile for its clients - and on its own initiative.

I found it interesting that a number of essays placed emphasis on giving a broad audience a sense of the abilities of the individual lawyers in a firm. This seems particularly important in the case of a global law firm where the decision to retain it for major matters is usually made by the general counsel back home in the U.S. The often expressed view of corporate counsel that "We hire lawyers and not law firms" is too simplistic. Global legal problems are generally too complicated for an individual lawyer to make much difference over the long run unless that talented lawyer is part of a firm of talented lawyers who together apply their unique skills to unravel those complexities - and do it with enthusiasm and dedication.

Yet, too few global firms do what the English firm did. It encouraged Leigh in the seminar and us in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel to present the key lawyers in the firm in a way that permitted the respective audiences to fully appreciate the talents of the individual lawyers and the enthusiasm with which they as a group helped their clients realize their objectives.

You will not necessarily agree with all the ideas put forward in every essay, but that too is a learning experience. The mere fact that those ideas are put forward by a person serious enough to have been selected for this great book might lead you to go back and reassess your own views.

Bright Ideas - Insights from Legal Luminaries Worldwide edited by E. Leigh Dance (189 pages) can be bought on line ($24.95) by going to www.BrightIdeasGlobalLaw.com. Profits from book sales go to Advocates for International Development (A4ID), a non-profit supporting pro bono initiatives around the world.

Al Driver,