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 Ensuring a Successful Relationship with Outside Counsel

Eric S. Sarner, a speaker at the marcus evans Chief Litigation Officer Summit Fall 2017, discusses how CLOs can help ensure successful outcomes by developing strong, long-term relationships with outside counsel.

Interview with: Eric S. Sarner, Associate General Counsel and Chief Litigation Counsel, Praxair, Inc.

'Chief Litigation Officers (CLOs) have to make sure they have the right counsel for every matter. The counsel must work well with the CLO, legal team and the business leaders. In addition, the terms of the engagement should be set at the outset so everyone understands their role, fees, scope of work, goals and desired level of communication. This is how CLOs can ensure a successful outcome with outside counsel,' advises Eric S. Sarner, Associate General Counsel and Chief Litigation Counsel, Praxair, Inc.

Sarner is a speaker at the marcus evans Chief Litigation Officer Summit Fall 2017, in Hollywood, Florida, September 24-26.

How do you ensure a successful outcome with outside counsel?

The goal always is to secure a quick, cost-effective resolution that makes sense to the organization with respect to any given matter. Communication is the key to making that happen. A key aspect is setting goals, expectations and strategy up front, and discussing and adjusting them along the way -- how we will achieve our goals, how to adapt to developments, and so on.

What advice can you offer on building value into the relationship with outside counsel?

We require discounts from our law firms and make sure cases are staffed appropriately. We evaluate bills against results to assess whether we are getting the expected work for the price we are asked to pay. If that is not the case, we discuss the matter with the firm. It is critical to have these conversations. Communication in general is key to a good relationship. Respectful, two-way conversations promote long-term positive relationships.

How can CLOs instil loyalty and dedication to their organization?

As an outside lawyer, I always found it very helpful when I could spend time with clients at their office, learning about their business. We bring lawyers to our headquarters or other locations so they can get to know our team. Since so much of our work today is through email, phone and video, we all forget how important it is to meet and spend time with someone. We also visit them at their offices.

We organize an annual meeting with outside counsel to discuss different topics, our work in certain areas and legal developments. This helps develop strong personal relationships, and heightens loyalty and commitment. The meeting also allows our counsel to get to know one another. We also provide references to help our lawyers obtain work from other clients. I take a long-term perspective and try to develop enduring relationships with talented lawyers by making them feel that they are part of our team.

Any final words of advice?

Do not underestimate the importance of developing relationships. Many CLOs engage a lawyer for one matter and do not think about a broader or long-term relationship with that lawyer or their firm. We try to direct larger amounts of work to firms to build loyalty; they then get to know us better across different areas. It is also important to network, share best practices and meet new counsel. Even if you do not have a specific need right now, you will be able to identify the talent you might call on when the need arises. 

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

Tel: + 357 22 849 313

About the Chief Litigation Officer Summit Fall 2017

The 20th Chief Litigation Officer Summit is the premium forum for bringing leading in-house litigation counsel across the nation together with service providers. The Summit offers a unique forum for service providers to interact with heads of litigation from the country�s leading organizations in an intimate environment. Taking place at The Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, Florida, September 24-26, the Summit includes presentations on litigation management, cybersecurity, labor and employment, and litigation prevention.

For more information please send an email to or visit the event website

The Legal Network - marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional trends and breakthrough innovations.


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