Michael Dillon, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Adobe Systems Inc., recently sat down with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal – Transactions & Business (PLJ) to discuss becoming a cloud-based service company, fostering a creative environment, and the need for law firms to run like a business.
PLJ: How is the legal function structured?
Michael Dillon: Becoming a cloud-based service company has been a dramatic change for Adobe’s employees, including the Adobe Legal & Government Relations (LGR) team. The LGR team has to be equipped to make real-time decisions, which was a significant change in mind-set. In our environment you do not have weeks and months to evaluate a risk. You have to make judgments based on expertise, and if you have developed a strong, trusted relationship with your business partner, your judgment will be supported.
PLJ: Are there any innovative ideas your law department has adopted to further its goals?
Dillon: We have reorganized the LGR team to be more efficient and resourceful by creating a Legal Operations team to help manage our priorities and ensure the organization is running effectively. We also established a centralized Global Legal Services team that provides on-going transactional support. This enables our experienced attorneys to focus on projects that require their expertise, and gives recent graduates a career path for working in-house. Additionally, we are shifting away from offices to an open environment, to foster collaboration and timely decision-making.
On the technology front, we are actively using Adobe Document Cloud and eSign services to digitize the workflow for contracts, agreements, board consents, filings, and more. Our services allow the LGR team to comment on, edit, and sign documents across our desktops and mobile devices, greatly improving our efficiency and responsiveness.
PLJ: How do you align the incentives of external law firms with the objectives of the law department?
Dillon: The landscape is shifting, and today it is important for external law firms to be truly invested in a partnership (not act as service providers) with their clients and align their objectives accordingly. Firms need to run like a business and track and be transparent with key metrics that have an impact on their clients’ objectives.
PLJ: What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?
Dillon: Foster diverse perspectives — The strength and resilience of a business depends on the diversity of its employees. It impresses me when firms constantly demonstrate a diverse pipeline of talent.
Align communication style — Firms need to take the time to really understand their client and their preferred communication style. This is something I do constantly with my own business partners. A boilerplate approach shows that a firm really does not understand the client.
Do not wait to be asked by your client — We want the firms we engage with to take the initiative to provide us with world-class service. We should not have to ask for quarterly reports, metrics, or training. Firms should be proactive.
PLJ: What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective General Counsel?
Dillon: Create an environment where your team is encouraged to stretch and think creatively. Help remove obstacles that will impede your team’s growth and help them get visibility.
You can read the full interview with Mr. Dillon in the March issue of Practical Law The Journal – Transactions & Business.