Career Development

Looking Back: Federal Rules Reform Gets Real, 2014-2018

GCs embrace overhaul of e-discovery system.

The focus in early 2014 – MCC’s 21st year of publication – was very much on civil justice reform, specifically, proposed revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure pertaining to discovery and e-discovery. Driving the discussion was Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ). Their roundtable featuring the GCs of Eli Lilly and Boston Scientific was the jumping off point. “Their clarion call,” wrote MCC guest columnist Barry Bauman, executive director of LCJ, “symbolizes the strong and growing support among chief legal officers of major American corporations to address fundamental problems associated with discovery.” It was a drumbeat that would echo over the next few years, including a front-page LCJ piece in the February 2014 issue replete with discovery horror stories such as Microsoft spending $600 million on discovery over 10 years, Pfizer spending $40 million to preserve 1.2 million backup tapes for eight years – never having to retrieve a single document from those tapes – and Bayer producing 2.1 million pages for an eight-week trial at which only 0.04 percent of the info was used. Kaspar Stoffelmayr, VP and associate general counsel of Bayer, made the point:

“The current system virtually guarantees the costly overpreservation of evidence.”

By November 2014, big changes were afoot at Metropolitan Corporate Counsel as founder Al Driver, former GC of JC Penney, announced that he and his wife and partner, Martha Driver, would be stepping down after a 21-year second career developing, editing and publishing MCC. In a farewell column, Al discussed the amazing growth of in-house law departments and the steady rise in stature and sophistication of GCs and their teams. “Yesterday (about 60 years ago!) there were relatively few general counsel or legal departments,” Al wrote. “As that momentum accelerated, the status of general counsel within their corporations was enhanced and their in-house law departments grew.” Before long, many had earned a place among the small cadre of executives at the apex of their organizations.

“They are fixtures at board meetings, providing valuable legal guidance as needed.”

By 2015, MCC had new owners, Kristin and Joe Calve, both veterans of American Lawyer Media (ALM). They pledged to continue Al and Martha’s mission of helping GCs do their jobs. By the April 2015 issue, MCC was focusing on a fast-moving trend that reflects the growth in size and stature of corporate law departments that Al referenced in his farewell note: the rise of the corporate legal operations professional. In a new column, MCC looked at the beginnings of what would become two highly influential organizations: the Association of Corporate Counsel’s new membership section, ACC Legal Operations, and CLOC – the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. Veta Richardson, president and CEO of ACC, commented on the key role legal ops professionals would have in driving the success of their law departments.

“In today’s corporate environment, driving value is a top priority, and legal operations professionals are at the forefront.”

In its 25th year, MCC continued its focus on the enhanced stature of GCs and their role as guardians and promoters of a healthy corporate culture. As we close out this 25-year celebration of what is now Corporate Counsel Business Journal, we turn to an MCC favorite, Ben Heineman, the legendary former legal chief of General Electric who redefined the role of the modern GC. In an interview accompanying publication of his book, “The Inside Counsel Revolution,” Heineman discussed the delicate balance GCs must strike between “going native as a yea-sayer for the business side” and being an “inveterate naysayer excluded from key discussions and decisions.” Gloria Santone, former GC of McDonald’s, neatly summed up the message:

“Striking that balance is an art, not a science.”

Milestones: 2014–2018

The Ebola virus kills 11,310 people in West Africa • Russia annexes Crimea • The Islamic State declares itself a caliphate • U.S. President Barack Obama announces the resumption of normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba • Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning British monarch in history • The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris commits all countries to reduce carbon emissions • The UK votes to leave the EU • The final videocassette recorder is manufactured in Japan • The Chicago Cubs win the World Series, ending the longest championship drought in U.S. sports history • Donald Trump is elected 45th U.S. president • Millions join a Women's March in response to Trump’s inauguration • Xi Jinping assumes his second term as China's paramount leader • The North Korea–United States summit is held in Singapore • Canada becomes the first major industrialized country to legalize cannabis for recreational use • Apple becomes the world's first $1 trillion public company

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