Looking Back: A World Turned Upside Down, 2009-2013

Friday, September 7, 2018 - 17:38

 

Digging out and stepping up, in-house counsel take the wheel.

As the magnitude of the financial crisis became apparent, the corporate community fretted over the risks of overreaction. Lawmakers and regulators discussed an array of changes in oversight and governance that, if adopted, would have a profound impact on all businesses – not just banks. MCC encouraged business leaders to speak out and ran special reports on the financial crisis in every 2009 issue before slowly turning back to business as usual by shining a bright light on intensifying civil justice reform efforts. This included a watershed confab at Duke Law School for what the GC of GlaxoSmithKline, Daniel E. Troy, called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for fundamental changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On the front page of MCC’s July 2010 issue, Troy did not mince words.

“Unfortunately, America, once known as the land of freedom, is now known as the land of litigation.”

Another focus for MCC was corporate pro bono. Given recent developments on the U.S. border with Mexico, an interview in the July-August 2012 issue is especially interesting. David A. Heiner, then VP and Deputy GC at Microsoft, headlined a special pro bono section by discussing the company’s role in KIND – Kids in Need of Defense. Microsoft GC and President Brad Smith, working with actress Angelina Jolie, founded the group, whose mission is to protect unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone. Heiner discussed the ongoing challenge of getting corporate counsel, almost all non-litigators, comfortable working on litigation-oriented pro bono matters.

“With the right support from the law department and sponsoring organizations, a non-litigator can often do a fine job on these matters.”

Another pervasive theme for MCC in this period was diversity. In 2011, Veta Richardson, executive director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, took the same position at the Association of Corporate Counsel, a role she holds today. MCC lauded Richardson’s role, and also cast the editorial spotlight on Tom Sager, GC of DuPont, who had made diversity a key metric for law firms in the fabled DuPont Legal Network. In an interview in the February 2011 issue, Sager’s top ops person, Evelyn H. Brantley, managing counsel, made it clear that DuPont’s “active and ongoing” commitment to diversity in the profession was not an empty pledge.

“Because the managing counsel holds the keys to matter and rate assignment, the person in that role is uniquely qualified to...highlight and reward successful firms.”

In October 2013, MCC celebrated its 20th Anniversary, an incredible milestone when you consider that Al Driver, GC of JCPenney, and Martha Driver, a top financial executive with TIAA-CREF, founded their publication after retiring from very full and busy careers. Fittingly, the publication wound up its 20th year by heralding what many thought would never happen: real change to the federal rules, largely driven by the growing burden of e-discovery. In a roundtable discussion with the headline “Light at the End of the E-Discovery Tunnel,” Jonathan Palmer, assistant GC of Microsoft and co-chair of the Lawyers for Civil Justice FRCP Committee, made the case for reform of an almost comically inefficient e-discovery system.

“Unfortunately, parties are giving up their right to access the courts because the costs of discovery are just too high.”

 

Milestones: 2009–2013

The first block of the blockchain is established by creator Satoshi Nakamoto • U.S. Airways Flight 1549 loses both engines after taking off from LaGuardia Airport and safely ditches in the Hudson River • The Great Recession officially ends • President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law • The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico • Researchers at CERN trap 38 antihydrogen atoms, the first time humans have trapped antimatter • Osama bin Laden, founder and leader of Al-Qaeda, is killed in Pakistan in a nighttime raid by U.S. forces • Occupy Wall Street protests begin in NYC’s Zuccotti Park • After 246 years, the Encyclopedia Britannica discontinues its print edition • Twenty-eight people, including the gunman, are killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School • Former CIA employee Edward Snowden discloses a mass surveillance program run by the U.S. government • Iran agrees to limit its nuclear development program in exchange for sanctions relief