NEW YORK– LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – ALM’s Corporate Counsel® magazine today announced the selection of the in-house attorneys of General Electric Company as winners of the magazine’s second annual “Best Legal Department” competition. Corporate Counsel‘s editors also named the legal departments of Accenture Ltd., Allstate Corporation and J.C. Penney Company, Inc. as finalists. Profiles of the winner and finalists will be featured in the May issue of the magazine, out today, and on the magazine’s Web site at www.corpcounsel.com.
Winners were selected from responses submitted to a detailed questionnaire developed by the editors of Corporate Counsel and distributed to the general counsel of all Fortune 500 corporations. The magazine’s editors and reporters evaluated submissions and selected the winners.
“From using technology creatively, to managing its litigation proactively, to overseeing a select group of law firms, our winner, General Electric Company, does it all,” said Robin Sparkman, editor in chief of the magazine. “Each of our finalists also demonstrated innovative approaches to key management areas that improve their contribution to their companies’ bottom line.”
The editors selected GE’s 1,225-attorney legal department as the 2007 winner for its singular ability to be both a visionary and an implementer. The department, which supports six different business groups across the globe, was recognized for a top-notch litigation practice that identifies risk early on, deft management of outside legal counsel, and technology that’s the envy of law departments nationwide.
The department’s belief in the power of preventive law, coupled with use of alternative dispute resolution methods, has resulted in a dramatic drop of almost 50 percent in litigation and fees over the last four years. GE uses technology tools developed internally to log and track cases, and to assess risk. Ultimately, the GE litigation team can decide, early on, whether it’s best to settle or take a case to trial.
GE has also been a leader in management of outside counsel, trimming a bloated list of 450 outside firms down to just 108 firms over the course of a multi-stage process. To solidify their relationships, the surviving firms were rewarded with four-year contracts.
Accenture Ltd’s legal team was recognized for its superior use of technology to connect a widely distributed staff, to assist the business side of the company make strategic decisions and to help senior management in meeting client consulting needs. On the diversity front, Accenture was cited for its creativity in its management of outside counsel. The company has committed 5 percent of its outside counsel spending to minority- and women-owned firms, and developed an online survey to monitor the diversity efforts of the firms on its preferred provider list.
Allstate Corporation’s in-house lawyers were selected for their proactive approach to both litigation and business matters. That hands-on philosophy played a key role when Allstate faced the most significant jury trial in its 75-year history, a ‘bet-the-company” class action involving vehicles damaged in accidents that were later repaired. The case, which could have potentially opened the door to millions of claims, was won by the company both at trial and on appeal. Departmental lawyers are assigned to business divisions, attending management meetings, flagging issues early, and advising on major decisions. Finally, like GE, Allstate has slashed its bloated roster of outside law firms from 400 to 13, while building closer and more cost effective relationships with a smaller group of law firm advisors.
J.C. Penney Company, Inc. was honored this year by the judges for its holistic approach to in-house lawyering. Penney has introduced an in-house version of a law firm career track that rewards hardworking attorneys by moving them up a four-step ladder. The company’s 44-lawyer department litigates almost all of the company’s cases itself, which rarely happens at Fortune 500 businesses. And the department is family-friendly. In fact, some top attorneys have accepted pay cuts in exchange for the quality of life that the department offers—including flexible hours, access to a corporate gym, and an on-site company day care center for parents.
The winner and finalists will be honored this fall at a joint event with Corporate Counsel’s sibling publication The American Lawyer®. The dinner will salute The American Lawyer’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award winners, the 20 firms from the Am Law® 200 selected for the magazine’s “A-List™,” and the winners and finalists of Corporate Counsel’s Best Legal Department competition.
The award-winning Corporate Counsel, the nation’s leading magazine for general counsel and in-house attorneys at corporations across the country, is published monthly by ALM and is available on the Web at www.corpcounsel.com.
Headquartered in New York City, ALM is a leading integrated media company, focused on the legal and business communities. ALM currently owns and publishes 33 national and regional magazines and newspapers, including The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal® and Real Estate Forum®. The company is one of North America’s largest producers of conferences and trade shows for business leaders and the legal profession. ALM’s Law.com® is the Web’s leading legal news and information network, while ALM’s GlobeSt.com® is the Web’s leading information source for commercial real estate professionals. Other ALM businesses include book and newsletter publishing, court verdict and settlement reporting, production of professional educational seminars, market research and content distribution. ALM was formed by U.S. Equity Partners, L.P., a private equity fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co., LP. More information on ALM’s businesses and services is available on the Web at www.alm.com.