Meeting People is Easy—A Discussion on Thought Leadership Events with Thomson Reuters’ Nicholas Giannini

Topics: COO/CFO Forum, Corporate Legal, Law Firm Leaders Forum, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Q&A Interviews, Thomson Reuters

client relationships

As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And while there are certainly no shortage of networking events out there to help with the latter, Thomson Reuters—through West LegalEdcenter and the Legal Executive Institute—continues to organize industry-leading events that cover a range of topics and attract leaders from across the legal marketplace.

But what does it take to organize these events and keep them fresh? I sat down for a conversation with Nicholas Giannini, manager, Live Events at Thomson Reuters, to talk about his work and the upcoming slate of events.

Alex: This year is the 20th anniversary of Law Firm Leaders Forum and the 14th annual COO & CFO Forum. How have these events evolved over the years?

Nicholas: This is a very exciting year for the Legal Executive Institute. Our Law Firm Leaders Forum, founded by ex-Orrick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Baxter, is the premier summit on the business of law for law firm chairs, managing partners and executive committee members. Throughout the years, this conference has continued to attract key decision makers across the AmLaw 150 and has developed a national reputation for rigorous intellectual content that law firm leaders repeatedly reference when making decisions within their respective organizations. The forum continues to (re)define Thomson Reuters not simply as a vendor, but as a trusted source of robust data and unbiased content on every critical matter for top law firm executives.

Similarly, our three-day Law Firm COO & CFO Forum has become a must-attend for eponymous title holders and executive directors throughout the AmLaw 200. We traditionally focus on leadership, operational and financial trends impacting business professionals within the firm. This forum began as a small gathering of 40 executive directors, but has grown to become a major national event with more than 200 attendees from across the country. If history is any indication, we expect to set a new attendance record this year.

A: On a related note, this is the inaugural year for the Women’s Transformative Leadership and Corporate Counsel events—how do you determine the topics/focus areas for these events?

N: Each year we endeavor to produce a number of new events in response to constant client feedback and significant market trends. Diversity and inclusion, rightfully so, came up repeatedly when we’ve engaged our clients.

I am reminded of Mark Roellig, executive vice president and general counsel of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, who remarked how critical it was for legal departments worldwide to build diverse teams in order to improve overall performance and attract superior talent across multiple generations. Based on this and related commentary, we set out to build a conference that offered a unique perspective for potential attendees.

The result is our Women’s Transformative Leadership conference, which addresses ascendant women’s leadership—as opposed to diversity—within the corporate and law firm setting. We are concerned with how women leaders ascend in traditionally male-dominated industries. Our inaugural conference in New York focused not only on professional relationships between women and men, but also the often uncomfortable dialectic between women as competitors for workplace recognition and promotion. That event was a sell-out, and we anticipate a similar response to our inaugural Corporate Counsel Leadership Forum this coming December in New York. Our focus will be on helping corporate counsel at every level of an organization develop essential business skills for law department management and corporate leadership vis-à-vis peer-to-peer interaction and workshops. This year’s faculty hails from a number of prestigious companies, including Goldman, Sachs & Co., Hewlett Packard, American International Group, and ING.

A: Regarding Law Firm Leaders and the COO & CFO forums, what can attendees familiar with these events expect to see this year that may surprise them?

N: For Law Firm Leaders, attendees will have a chance to engage William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association, legendary Wilmer Hale rainmaker William F. Lee, Ben Heineman, former senior vice president and general counsel of General Electric, and Bob Woodward—a man who needs no introduction—as our luncheon keynote speaker. We also have a special 20th anniversary dinner at one of New York’s most storied restaurants, which we believe will be a very special event for those in attendance.

At our Law Firm COO & CFO Forum, an emphasis on some of the industry’s hottest trends and non-legal industry thought leaders will help push our audience to think in new, perhaps uncanny, directions with presentations on artificial intelligence, revamped law firm profitability metrics, future drivers of change for legal clients, and more.

A: Are there any broader themes that connect these fall events?

N: “Leadership” is a prominent theme in our 2015 calendar, and not just singular or broad, all-encompassing leadership. Our fall events view leadership as a plural and diverse premise fraught with nuance and complexity. We want to engage our clients and impart practical guidance that can help them achieve greater professional—maybe even personal—success.

A: As a facilitator for these events, what makes for a successful event? How does that differ from what an attendee may deem successful?

N: Above all else, these events are meant to educate our clients and demonstrate the significant value Thomson Reuters brings as a business partner. Our attendees sign up for these events expecting to gain insight into issues of immediate or long-term concern. Whenever we are able to provide practical, digestible takeaways and an opportunity to network with colleagues and thought leaders, I think you could argue that the attendee would deem the conference a success. For me, however, an event is only truly successful if it fosters subsequent dialogue and percolates within the minds of our attendees well after the fact.

For example, we just completed a very popular Data Privacy & Security conference in June that garnered numerous side conversations, blog postings on our Legal Executive Institute website, and given its importance across industries, requests from attendees to revisit the topic in 2016. I want to create synergy with all our events, and our fall conference line-up is positioned to impact both the law firm and corporate community.

(This post was originally published in Legal Current. It is reprinted here with permission.)