In-House Counsel

How law firms end up on IBM GC's do-not-hire list

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Lawyers who lead corporate law departments often have a do-not-hire list of banned law firms, even if it’s not committed to writing.

IBM general counsel Robert Weber is no different. There are about 10 law firms and 10 individual lawyers he refuses to hire, the American Lawyer reports. He explained why in an interview with the publication.

“The first sin is pretty simple,” the story says. “Forget what all those business development gurus say. Don’t solicit Weber’s corporate counterparts for business. Never. Ever. It’s fine for lawyers to socialize with the executives. But Weber and his crew don’t want you squeezing the MBAs for legal work. It puts the in-house team in an awkward position, and Weber wants the company’s legal work centralized through the law department.”

Other transgressions that can put firms on the list include:

• Insensitivity to legal ethics issues. If IBM refuses to waive a conflict when you request it, don’t whine about it.

• Cold pitch letters. Some law firms watch the dockets and send a form letter when IBM is sued. IBM replies with a request for a list of cases the firm has tried in the jurisdiction. Usually, there aren’t many replies.

• Failing to understand the client. Weber recalled the time he asked an outside litigator why the lawyer hadn’t sought a jury trial in one case. The lawyer, who responded with a four-page memo, “hadn’t spent a minute trying to understand his client,” Weber told the American Lawyer.

Story updated on April 5 to add missing word.

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