JDS Uniphase Corporation (NASDAQ: JDSU) is a global supplier of broadband and optical solutions.
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: No surprises here: setting expectations appropriately, communicating surprises or bad news fast and at a minimum by phone (vs. email), and being bold about outcomes (vs. waffle-y and hedging).
Q: And, of course, the follow-up: what are the top three things that lawyers could learn from your least successful relationships with outside counsel over the years?
A: The same basic stuff that any service organization including us needs to be aware of: arrogance, surprises, and inaccessibility.
Q: What?s the smartest thing a lawyer or a law firm has ever done for you outside of doing great legal work?
A: I will never forget one senior partner driving from his home to the office at midnight just to make sure that a consent letter had been properly faxed to our auditors in connection with a major transaction. He could have delegated that job, or waited a day, or not done it at all, but he was absolutely committed to making sure I did not have to worry about it. It meant a lot.
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: We work with a firm that has made a huge commitment to really learn our business and technologies. As an example they have sent very senior lawyers to our various sites and spent time just learning, absorbing, asking questions, and as a by product, becoming a part of our team.
Q: Are there other law firm trends that you’re seeing that you’d like to come to a screeching halt?
A: Annual assumed fee increases.
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, unfortunately we have had to make those kinds of changes.
Q: Would it have been helpful if somebody other than the relationship partner proactively requested your feedback and then acted on it, perhaps annually?
A: Yes, and that goes both ways. We want to know what we can do to fix problems too. But feedback that does not actually result in changes does not help either.
Q: What can firms do right now in light of the current macro economic situation?
A: This year many companies have been and will be forced to make tough decisions, cutting costs deeply. Corporate legal departments are under stresses that they have not experienced before. It would be refreshing to see firms proactively consider what they can do and how they can help, as true partners, to navigate through this recession. I think there is opportunity for enlightened firms to build true loyalties if they take the long view.