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Vulcan Materials Company, Norman Jetmundsen, Jr., Assistant General Counsel, January 2009

Vulcan Materials Company provides essential infrastructure materials required by the U.S.
economy. Vulcan is the nation’s leading producer of construction aggregates: primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel. www.vulcanmaterials.com

Q: If you think about your best relationships with outside counsel over time, what are three important things other lawyers could learn from them?
A: 1. Partner with your client and be part of his or her business. 2. Take time to truly learn the client’s business so you understand what their needs are think strategically. 3. Get to know your inhouse counsel so you understand his or her needs and wishes and really know what they want and who they are. Make their job easier and, frankly, help them look good to their management.

Q: And, of course, the followup: what are the top three things that lawyers could learn from your least successful relationships with outside counsel over the years?
A:1. Take time to review bills and cut bills; don’t overbill; provide some services to help the client that you don’t bill for. 2. Don’t over lawyer files; don’t throw lots of lawyers on matters. 3. Return phone calls promptly; make clients feel they and their legal needs are important; don’t wait until the last minute and then expect inhouse counsel to drop everything to help you.

Q: What’s the smartest thing a lawyer or a law firm has ever done for you outside of doing great legal work?
A: Inviting me at their expense to a legal seminar that was relevant to my work. It was easy to justify going since it had CLE and was not purely recreational. And it meant the lawyer who invited me and I spent time together at meals and at the seminar. I appreciated the gesture, got to know the lawyer better, and learned something as well.

Q: Are there any client service or business development trends you’re seeing among law firms that you think are headed in the right direction?
A: Firms that are helping identify costs and outcomes early and trying to get matters resolved quickly and efficiently. Early case assessment and alternative fee billing arrangements will help firms in the future.

Q: Are there other law firm trends that you’re seeing that you’d like to come to a screeching halt?
A: The “traditional” approach to litigation of throwing lots of lawyers at matters who generate lots of paper and bills, but not a lot of results. Also, hourly fees are getting way too high in many cities and I don’t see how firms are going to be able to continue getting such high rates.

Q: Have you ever fired a major provider of legal services or have you ever had internal suggestions that you should fire a major provider?
A: Yes

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