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The Canadian Bar Association

Jim Middlemiss

Corporate counsel

Reining in budgets: how to weather budget cuts

By Jim Middlemiss September 29, 2017 29 September 2017

Reining in budgets: how to weather budget cuts


Wendy King, Vice-President, Legal, Risk and Governance, and Corporate Secretary at Capstone Mining Corp. in Vancouver, has seen the highs and lows of economic cycles. King, who has built her in-house career in the mining and forest industries, knows firsthand what happens when commodity prices turn south—survival quickly becomes a fight of the fittest.

“You feel the impact faster,” says King (pictured above), whose employer is a base metals miner with a focus on copper. “It’s much more cyclical and your strategy is different depending on the resource,” she says of coping with an economic downturn.

Whether it’s minerals, oil or lumber, one thing is certain when prices turn—budget cuts are the order of the day.

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Corporate counsel

Capturing Your “Innerpreneur”

By Jim Middlemiss July 4, 2017 4 July 2017

Capturing Your “Innerpreneur”

 

Sébastien Guénette had a crash course on how to think like an entrepreneur, and the Director, Legal at the Canadian operations of Japan Tobacco International (JTI) says he’s a better in-house lawyer because of it.

“Being in the shoes of an entrepreneur for a week and taking your legal hat off was a very good exercise,” Guénette says of a course that his company’s legal department put on in Madrid for 80 of its senior in-house lawyers two years ago.

One of the big benefits for him was learning to “take the risk to make decisions, even if the data is not entirely complete, which business people often do, but it is very counter-intuitive for a lawyer to do that.”

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Corporate counsel

Conduct risk threat rising

By Jim Middlemiss April 3, 2017 3 April 2017

Conduct risk threat rising

 

Banking giant Wells Fargo fires 5,300 employees for opening fake accounts, which would later cost the CEO his job. Stadium caterer Centerplate fires its CEO after elevator video surfaces showing him kicking a dog, but not before the matter is painfully stretched out over days amid much second-guessing and threats of food boycotts. Soccer giant FIFA finds itself embroiled in bribery allegations over the World Cup. The Russian Olympic federation engages in mass doping.

What do these seemingly disparate scandals have in common? At the centre of their storm is some form of alleged bad conduct by key actors in the organization, showing critical ethical lapses that exposed their organizations to risk.

“Conduct risk” is quickly emerging as a leading threat in-house counsel and their C-level executives must manage. It comes at a time when regulators, legislators and a grumpy public are aiming their arrows at what seems to be a growing phenomenon of bad behaviour across both corporate and public institutions.

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Cyber security

Preparing for a cyber security tsunami

By Jim Middlemiss December 15, 2016 15 December 2016

Preparing for a cyber security tsunami

 

Ask Nikki Latta about the biggest change in her nine years of practicing in-house at the consulting giant Deloitte LLP, and the Assistant General Counsel says it is the focus the firm’s clients are placing on cyber security and protecting their IT systems from unwanted intrusions.

“What we are seeing is that clients want to understand what security protections are in place with respect to the information they are sharing with us and with respect to the access they are providing us to their networks. They want to know who they are dealing with…so they can satisfy themselves that they are in good hands.”

Part of Latta’s job is to facilitate the negotiation of large IT outsourcing contracts, which drives part of Deloitte’s consulting business, so she has had a front-row seat to the emergence of cyber crime as a major issue facing businesses.

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Corporate counsel

Building better rosters: 7 things in-house counsel need to know about the RFP process

By Jim Middlemiss April 27, 2016 27 April 2016

Building better rosters: 7 things in-house counsel need to know about the RFP process

 

In late 2014, TELUS Corporation was looking to implement more cost controls across its business units and identify efficiencies it could bring to bear in its operations, including legal services. It fell on the shoulders of Michel Belec, Vice President of Legal Services; and Alan Dabb, Vice President of Litigation, to figure out what that meant for the corporate law department. But before they could begin, they had a problem common to many large organizations in Canada: legal spending was fragmented and distributed across the organization. Figuring out the total legal spend would not be an easy operation.

“Not all of the external legal spend was concentrated in the corporate law department,” Dabb explains. For example, the labour, regulatory and tax teams had their own external legal spend, which was outside the corporate law department. “Our objective was to look at the overall external counsel spend to try to come up with some efficiencies to make sure that we were spending our dollars in the right places and getting maximum bang for our buck.”

What they found was that TELUS had an unwieldy 59 law firms on retainer, conducting a wide variety of work. “Some we used more frequently than others,” notes Belec. This meant different retainer agreements and work processes were in place for each of the law firms TELUS dealt with.

The duo saw it as an opportunity to use a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to refresh TELUS’s external counsel program in order to not only get a better handle on legal spending, but—equally important—find ways to standardize the way it worked with law firms, identify administrative efficiencies, and bring additional value-added services to the company for its legal spend.

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