LG Electronics MobileComm USA
LG Electronics MobileComm USA, Alan K. Tse, General Counsel, March 2009
LG is a global leader and technology innovator in consumer electronics, home appliances and mobile communications.
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: Solve my problems. If I engage outside counsel it is usually because I have a problem which needs solving. Try not to create more problems; present solutions. Understand my business and listen to your client explain his business so you can understand what is truly important to your client. Sometimes ultimate litigation victory is not the only goal and sometimes it can be a hollow victory. Think ahead, anticipate issues, whether that is in a litigation context or in compliance issues which might affect my business in the future.
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: Help me deliver legal services to my company efficiently; be proactive, look for ways to reduce costs or alternative arrangements so we can deliver value. Frankly, if you aren’t proactive about it, and think of ways to do that, your competitors are. No surprises; never surprise your client. When you surprise me, I have to surprise my bosses and that is a conversation I would like to avoid. Admit your mistakes. We are all human and we make mistakes. Forthright apologies go a long way to building long term trust in a relationship.
Q: What?s the smartest thing a lawyer or a law firm has ever done for you outside of doing great legal work?
A: Offered to spend the day touring our facilities and getting to know my business on their own dime.
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: Various alternative billing arrangements and the willingness to share in the risk and reward of that.
Q: Are there other law firm trends that you?re seeing that you?d like to come to a screeching halt?
A: The annual raising of billing rates. Every year my business is expected to cut costs; to deliver a better value to our customers. For example, our cell phones get better and better every year, with more features and capabilities all at the same or reduced price. Yet the one area of expense that does not go down year to year is legal spend. It’s counter to the rest of my business.
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, but more times than not, we just stop giving work or as much work to firms in which we lose confidence.
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: Absolutely. Relationship building is not just the job of the relationship partner. Those working day-to-day on matters should use that as an opportunity to build the relationship. After all, my philosophy is not to hire law firms but to hire lawyers.
Q: Are there any other questions we should have asked you? If so, please ask and answer your own question!
A: How should lawyers deliver bad news?
A colleague once told me, “Bad news is not like fine wine, it doesn’t get better with age.” This all goes back to the above. Just tell me and let’s deal with it the best we can. Delaying only compounds the problem and like I said, we are in the solutions business not the problem creation business.