Betty Thorne Tierney, Group Vice President & Associate General Counsel – Litigation at Macy’s, Inc., recently sat down with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Litigation to discuss working with local counsel on litigation cases, the need for flexibility and efficiency from outside litigators, and what’s keeping her litigation team busy these days.
PLJ: How typical or unique is the scope of responsibilities for the company’s litigation attorneys?
Thorne Tierney: Macy’s litigators have a unique role. We actively defend most of the company’s uninsured litigation across the country. While we partner with local counsel in each jurisdiction, a Macy’s litigator is usually lead counsel for the defense of these cases.
PLJ: What is keeping your department’s attorneys the busiest at the moment?
Thorne Tierney: Macy’s has an arbitration program for its employees, and the law in this area has recently been the subject of much litigation. Defending the Macy’s arbitration program and litigating the resulting arbitrations is a major part of what our litigators do. Our docket also includes consumer credit litigations, cases under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the varied class actions that every organization faces.
PLJ: What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?
Thorne Tierney: First, be flexible. While Macy’s attorneys perform as much of the legal work on a case as possible, circumstances may require us to ask our outside attorneys to assist, and they must be able to step in as needed. Second, be efficient. The Macy’s litigation team is designed to limit outside costs, and our law firms are our partners in containing these expenses. Finally, be knowledgeable. While Macy’s attorneys are skilled in litigation, we rely on our outside local counsel to be experts in the requirements and expectations of the relevant jurisdiction.
PLJ: What one piece of advice would you give to prospective in-house litigation counsel?
Thorne Tierney: Remember that your duties will involve more than providing legal advice. An in-house attorney wears many hats, such as legal counselor, business advisor, and executive or employee. The in-house attorney must reconcile the perspectives and objectives of each role and determine the best result for the client, all within the ethical confines of the profession. While challenging, these varied roles and duties keep the job interesting.
You can read the full interview with Ms. Thorne Tierney in the February/March issue of Practical Law The Journal: Litigation.