Scott A. Levinson, Vice President of Legal Services for Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc., recently spoke with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Litigation (PLJ) about what makes his team turn to outside counsel, the use of alternative fees, and undertaking a Law Department of the Future initiative.
PLJ: How typical or unique is the scope of responsibilities for the company’s litigation attorneys?
Levinson: Con Edison has a long history of maintaining a robust and highly capable law department where our attorneys actually litigate. We handle as many cases as possible from the pleading stage through jury verdict and appeal. Our litigation team’s varied background and combined knowledge of the company, the law, and the court system make us a formidable opponent.
Company managers also value us as strategic partners and we are frequently asked to join multidisciplinary teams or help resolve complex business disputes.
PLJ: What is keeping your company’s litigation attorneys the busiest at the moment?
Levinson: Our litigation attorneys handle a wide variety of personal injury, property damage, commercial, construction, regulatory, and real estate matters, which provide a steady flow of work. Lately, our attention has been focused on protecting Con Edison’s contractual and regulatory interests in PG&E’s bankruptcy.
PLJ: Have any recent developments changed the way your department operates?
Levinson: We have undertaken a Law Department of the Future initiative to keep pace with developments in legal practice and emerging technologies and to meet client demand for quick and actionable answers. We have made great strides in several areas, including creating a safety-minded, diverse and inclusive, and flexible workplace.
We are currently mapping out plans for implementing next generation case management software, which will enable us to work more efficiently on any device and help us harness our data to better understand and manage litigation risks.
PLJ: What types of issues will cause you to turn to outside counsel?
Levinson: Traditionally, we went to outside counsel only on large, complex matters. We are now experimenting with using outside counsel on more routine cases as a way of supplementing resources, benchmarking our department against the industry, and staying current with best practices.
PLJ: What types of issues will cause you to push for alternative fee arrangements with outside counsel?
Levinson: We have found success with fixed or capped price arrangements, with or without a success bonus, on motions to dismiss and appeals. As we develop more data around our cases, we hope to expand this approach to whole cases or at least segments of a litigation.
PLJ: What is the best career advice you ever received?
Levinson: Ask for help. Nearly every time I have mustered the courage to show vulnerability and ask for help, I have left with a better understanding of my targeted outcome and how to move forward on the path to reach it. I also further developed my relationship with the person providing the advice, which is itself enormously helpful.
PLJ: What is one mistake you made early in your legal career and what did you learn from that experience?
Levinson: As a young litigator, I was too adversarial with opposing counsel. I learned that this is a counterproductive approach and that I could gain helpful insights and achieve better results with less effort by developing positive relationships with opposing counsel.
PLJ: What one piece of advice would you give to prospective in-house litigation counsel?
Levinson: Find or create an opportunity to take a position in a business unit for a couple of years. My stint as a construction manager in the company’s Construction department made me a more practical and effective in-house counsel.
Read the full interview in the February/March 2020 issue of Practical Law The Journal: Litigation.
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