Corporate Counsel Speaks: Know My Business & Be Straightforward, Advises Epson America’s Miller

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Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Litigation recently sat down with Jilana L. Miller, Senior Legal Counsel at consumer electronics giant Epson America, Inc., and asked her how she manages her litigation team and what outside law firms need to do to impress her.

PLI: What is keeping your department’s attorneys the busiest at the moment?

Jilana L. Miller: We are constantly making slight shifts in priorities depending on the demands of the business and changes in the legal landscape. Currently, we have a number of active intellectual property (IP) and brand protection matters. In many companies, IP and brand protection are handled by a separate department. At Epson America, these matters are handled by the legal department with support from the IP Division at our parent company.


Epson America’s Senior Legal Counsel Jilana Miller

PLI: How typical or unique is the scope of responsibilities for the company’s attorneys?

Miller: The attorneys in our department handle a broad scope of responsibilities. Each attorney is responsible for supporting a product group and handling any issues that arise for that group. Additionally, each attorney has expertise in particular subject matter areas, such as privacy and data security or import and export issues. Once an issue rises to the level of litigation or is clearly moving in that direction, regardless of subject matter, I handle it.

PLI: What types of issues will cause you to turn to outside litigation counsel?

Miller: We engage outside counsel in all litigation matters. We actively manage those matters and often handle select aspects of the litigation in-house.

PLI: What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?

Miller: First, know the consumer electronics industry and the unique aspects of our business that may be impacted by a litigation. Often, gaining that industry-level understanding is not a priority for a law firm attorney mired in the day-to-day demands of litigation. However, it can mean all the difference to in-house counsel charged with making the best strategic decisions for the company.

Second, manage the litigation and its budget in a manner that is consistent with the litigation’s importance to the business. A skilled attorney can demonstrate at the outset how she will manage the case and set strategic priorities within a budget.

Finally, I appreciate clear and precise advice. Attorneys often struggle with providing clear guidance without caveats and disclaimers, but business clients demand straightforward, practical advice. Clear responses demonstrate that an attorney is attuned to our business interests and has the confidence and experience to provide appropriate direction.

You can read the full interview with Ms. Miller in the latest issue of “Practical Law The Journal: Litigation”.