Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thinking Out Loud

In this first blog, I should introduce myself. I joined ACCA when it was a desk, a phone and Nancy Nord (the first executive director). She called me to tell me that the phone had now been installed, and Bob Banks had told her once it was working to call me and “start doing stuff.”

I have had an unusual career up to my retirement a couple of years ago, since I not only did all the things in-house counsel typically do; I also had a remarkably robust litigation career having tried jury cases across the country, argued before many appellate tribunals, including the United States Supreme Court, and well as a number of international tribunals. A number of my cases had garnered substantial media attention. Alcan’s challenge to the use of Worldwide Combined Apportionment had international attention. PIRG v MEI was used by a number of groups to impugn Sam Alito’s environmental credentials to be a Justice of the Supreme. Those who want to learn a little more see: “If you want things done right… Alcan Senior Counsel Keeps Litigation In House,” Inside Litigation , February 1999 , Vol. 13, no 2, pp 9-11 or “He’ll litigate you to death ”, National Law Journal, Monday , October 22, 2001

Over my career I developed a number of opinions and perspectives about the profession, and no doubt that is why Fred Krebs asked me to undertake the task of blogging. He will tell you to take what I have to say with a “grain of salt” and he is correct. What is important is that you think about what I have to say. What I hope to do is share with you what ACCA (Sorry, I am not against internationalizing the organization, in fact, I just has my Italian citizenship recognized; I just find ACC does not sound right), did for me. When we started on our efforts of advocacy on behalf of in-house counsel and in some cases on behalf of the profession generally, it forced me to step back and think about what I did everyday. This resulted in my beginning to challenge things that appeared to be unequivocally true by many.

In our profession things become accepted and fashionable. I am convinced that lawyers treat as fact anything that has been repeated three times. That is how it became fashionable to claim that alternative dispute resolution lowered legal costs, or that the Civil Justice Reform Act was going to solve all major litigation management issues or that value billing (I am not sure that really means) was going to solve the problem of escalating legal fees.

I have as you will come to realize a different take on a lot of these issues. I don’t think outside legal expenses are out of control if one wants to buy just cost effective legal services. The problem is that many in-house counsels are buying something else. The present legal system in the United States is in state of substantial disarray, insensitive to its primary role of serving the public, in many respects unaccountable, and far too controlled by special interests, the judiciary being one of them.

Our profession has a serious detrimental effect on its members; practitioners are ill-equipped by out-dated legal educational system unable to effectively train lawyers capable of efficiently delivering meaningful services to client and has compensated by substituting form for substance.

I will be addressing many of these views in the forthcoming posts—the first will be this notion of partnering with outside firms—is it real.

-Larry Salibra

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