Diversity Part III Partnering The DuPont Way: The Diversity Factor - Part II

Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Thomas L. Sager, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, DuPont Legal.

Part I of this article appears in the March 2004 issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.Editor: Let me ask you about some of the specific things that firms in the DuPont Network have done that have contributed to DuPont's bottom line and involve techniques that make the firms more attractive to other clients. Tell us about DuPont's e-billing arrangements with the PLFs.

The e-billing system supplied to us by TyMetrix provides us with the vital data needed by the in-house lawyers to manage our relationships with outside counsel. It enables us to help them staff our cases effectively and to help them structure alternative fees.

For the first time ever, we have the ability, using digitized billing guidelines, to effectively control what we pay for and do not pay for. In the past, we had such a mass of paper invoices to review that there was no way that we could meaningfully review those bills to ensure that law firms were doing what we expected of them and not going off on tangents.

E-billing also provides us with a tool to monitor and control the way outside lawyers use their time Ñ numbers of people assigned, particular individuals assigned and rates charged. This means that law firms must pay more attention to their corporate clients. We can also track whether the team representing us is sufficiently diverse, including how many hours are being spent by minority lawyers (both associates or partners) and whether minorities are playing important roles in handling our matters.

Editor: Does the concept of helping law firms find new clients also extend to the legal service providers like TyMetrix?

Absolutely. And indeed we've been as successful in that regard as we have with the PLFs. In some respects, it is a bit easier because we have worked so closely with most of them from their early beginnings and fostered their growth. For example, we pioneered sophisticated e-billing with TyMetrix and the strategic use of temporary staffing with Kelly Law Registry. Because we are trying new approaches and leading by example, other law departments look to us for recommendations. They will frequently select our service providers because they are impressed with some of our successes.

Editor: Do the PLFs use temps effectively?

They certainly do now. We have been very aggressive in encouraging them to use temps to reduce costs and increase efficiency. They have also seen the merit of using a service provider that understands our business and our needs.

I applaud our PLFs who have embraced the use of temps. For example, Faegre and Benson, one of our primary law firms, was recently heralded for its use of temps. A Minneapolis newspaper ran a feature story on the firm in the business section on their use of Kelly Law Registry to provide cost efficient legal services to their major clients.

Other firms are rapidly migrating to greater reliance on temps and other corporate legal departments are aggressively pushing them to do so, as well. Most large, sophisticated law firms now appreciate that it is something they need to offer their clients because the cost of legal services is getting out of control.

Editor: Is the sophisticated use of trial consultants another competitive advantage that the PLFs have acquired?

FTI Consulting, Inc., our trial consultant, plays a very active role in our network. They serve us and our PLFs well. Their help has been particularly important in light of the public's increasing distrust of corporations in the wake of the Enron and other corporate scandals. They help us understand how jurors now feel about large corporations so that we can adjust our trial strategies to take their attitudes into consideration. We are finding that jurors that have traditionally felt kindly toward corporations, such as white males, the highly educated and homeowners, are now more skeptical. FTI helps us track trends like this so that we can be better prepared to cope with changes in jurors' attitudes. This kind of information enables us to make our story more compelling to a jury. This is only one aspect of the services provided to us and our PLFs by FTI relating to juries and trial presentation generally.

Editor: Are the PLFs kept up to speed on newer developments like electronic discovery?

Daticon, Inc. has worked hand and glove with us and our PLFs to develop the most efficient approach to electronic discovery. Today, most corporate information is also kept in electronic form and e-mail has become the dominant mode of corporate communication. So the members of the DuPont Network need to stay ahead of the curve with respect to how electronic data is created and collected and how to handle requests for the production of such data in litigation.

Editor: Forensic accounting plays a major role in many cases. How do you and the PLFs handle this?

Deloitte & Touche is one of the newer entrants to the Network. They work with us and our PLFs on any number of litigation related fronts, forensic accounting being one. They have done a number of independent audits, not the conventional audit but audits necessary to support a case or business challenge. They also help us with internal investigations.

They have also helped on the corporate side in the world of Six Sigma by providing technical expertise that helps us identify areas of risk management where we can improve the discipline and hopefully bring greater value to the corporation through a far more data-rich evaluation process.
These are just a few of the ways that Deloitte has contributed to us and to our PLFs.

Editor: Tell us about some of the other legal service providers that equip the PLFs to provide superior service to DuPont and to other clients.


Editor's Note: This interview is being published in two installments. In the first installment, which appeared in our March issue, Mr. Sager provided an overview of the DuPont Network and the role of diversity. In this issue, he provides specifics on the diversity activities and other features of the DuPont Network.