Brian S. Chevlin, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Pernod Ricard USA, Inc., recently sat down with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law to discuss how to align external law firms’ interest with a law department’s own objectives and how his legal department pursues innovation in a global marketplace.
PL: Are there any innovative ideas your law department has adopted to further its goals?
Chevlin: Innovation for our law department is being up to speed on all the new digital and other emerging technology that our business is participating in, so the business can win in the marketplace. By understanding what is happening in the digital world, we can help the business effectively navigate the highly complex regulatory framework for beverage alcohol. Embracing technology allows us to be more efficient as a legal team so we are able to spend more time on strategic, game-changing legal work.
In addition, we are using proven legal technologies like Serengeti e-billing/matter management software. We are also beginning to look at contract software and apps to improve workflow and timely advice to the business. We are excited about a new five-year strategic plan called Legal 2020 that will employ the most cutting-edge ways of delivering legal services for a fast-moving, innovative company like Pernod.
We are significant players in the Advance Law legal initiative, which gives GCs access to a highly select group of law firms in the US and around the world that offer very competitive rates and extremely high-level legal services. This unique initiative represents the future of outside legal services and allows companies to manage their legal costs and obtain the best value for their money.
PL: How do you align the incentives of external law firms with the objectives of the law department?
Chevlin: By working with groups like Advance Law, being selective in the firms we use, and enforcing our Outside Counsel Guidelines, we build very solid relationships with our firms. As long-term partners, they understand our main objective is reaching cost-effective, practical solutions to legal problems. When you work closely with the same attorneys over the years, they get to know your risk tolerance and approach to resolving matters. Firms that want to have a continuing, mutually beneficial relationship will change their behavior to make you happy.
PL: What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?
Chevlin: First, embrace and proactively suggest alternative fee arrangements. Second, be able to quickly analyze a matter and have the experience to predict the likely outcome and potential settlement options before having all the facts and spending a lot of money. Finally, be smarter than and one step ahead of the opposing attorneys.
You can read the full interview with Mr. Chevlin in the October issue of Practical Law: The Journal