Explaining To Your CEO Why Your Budget Is So High And What You Are Doing About It

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 14:06

Remember that sunny morning when you came back to work after a glorious summer vacation on Nantucket? The gloom first began to gather when your CEO asked you to come to her office.

You knew from her grim expression that something bad was about to happen. And it did! She said in a gruff tone, “You are again over budget. I thought our talk about this last year would have made some impression. You know we are again in the midst of a bad year, and you are not doing your part.” You mumble something about the soaring costs of e-discovery and stumble out of her office.

It would have been a better scene if you had explained that the legal department was doing everything it could to contain e-discovery costs through the use of technology and information governance.  

You might have dispelled the dark cloud that gathered as you departed from her office if you had explained that further reductions of those costs could be made only through a joint effort of corporations and their allies, and that you had been instrumental in convincing the company to support Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ), an organization of corporations, defense counsel and their organizations.

Given LCJ’s track record of great achievements, it’s likely that with the support of companies like yours throughout the country, it would be successful in its efforts to reduce litigation costs, including those of e-discovery and overpreservation, through changes in state court rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.    

You could have explained that you were also attacking those costs by suggesting to your law firms that they support LCJ by becoming associate members of LCJ and by providing it with financial and other support. And, you might have added that since the foot soldiers in most of LCJ’s efforts were members of DRI, IADC and FDCC, you had encouraged your law firms to become members of one or more of these defense counsel organizations, not only for the reasons already discussed but also because these organizations focus on important goals, such as honing the skills of defense counsel and alerting policymakers to the even higher costs that would result from a breakdown in our state court systems due to cutbacks triggered by the recession.

Now that the gloom has lifted, you may want to refer to how support can be marshaled to achieve goals that require concerted actions that reach beyond the capacities of any individual corporation or legal department.

Organizations like LCJ, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, and MCC, celebrating 20 years of serving corporate counsel, are critical allies in the effort to create a fair and workable civil justice system. But this alliance requires broad-based participation from the community of in-house and outside counsel who serve corporations. Ensuring the success of the strategies you mentioned requires that they be communicated to a maximum number of corporate counsel.

To that end, MCC consistently and comprehensively reports on the activities of LCJ and the defense counsel organizations. MCC’s corporate counsel readers enjoy receiving monthly issues of MCC at no cost, with our financial support coming from law firms, organizations and legal service providers that understand the importance of educating corporate counsel about legal developments. 

Therefore, your CEO might agree with your final suggestion that the company provide financial and editorial support to MCC as well as to LCJ, and encourage its law firms to do the same. This small allocation of resources will go a long way toward achieving goals that can have a significant impact on reducing legal spend and on fostering fairness and proportionality within our civil justice system.