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June 2011 Acc Docket Developing Effective Relationships With Business Partners Fletcher


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How in-house counsel can develop effective business partnering skills.

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June 2011 Acc Docket Developing Effective Relationships With Business Partners Fletcher

  1. 1. INSIDE: European Briefings June 2011Av oid i ng the J un gle : I NA CH IN D E MA U GS DR R FO E S UR PO EX G T IN LI MI Risk Management — International Background Checks — Business in Ireland — Request for Proposal — M&A in Russia — Lending in Sub-Saharan Africa — Dodd-Frank
  2. 2. HEARSAY *RLQJ *OREDO _ 1HZ WR ,QKRXVH _ ,QV 2XWV _ 6PDOO /DZ _ 7KH RQWUDFWXDO RJLWDWRU _ 2XWVRXUFH 5HVRXUFH orking a deal with an ners? If they are inexperienced, have tenance and support, and the businessW experienced business partner can be a well- choreographed dancebringing professional satisfaction toeach side and beneficial business deals you discussed what qualifies as a legal or business decision and when deci- sions belong to another department? A license grant, indemnifications, and reps and warranties fall under legal. motivations of each side)? After all, as in-house counsel, you support the business units. To bring a business partner over to your side of thinking, you need to be patient. Youto the company. Knowing when to lead Pricing and distribution fall under also need to be honest about why theand when to defer during negotiations business. What about deviations from relationship is not working. Have youis sublime. Of course, we all know the standard company policy? Are other become a roadblock — a black hole intoother side of the game. What happens departments required to approve? which work disappears forever? If so, is it possible to off-load some of your work? AreDeveloping Effective Relationships there template agreements that can be executed bywith Business Partners the business group unal- tered under certain condi-BY FRANK FLETCHER tions? Can you promise 24-hour turnaround on a simple task, such as NDAif your business partner is less than What will your CFO say when you requests, as a means of gaining trust?ideal, escalating every time they hear learn that business has promised net If you are assigned to support a group“no” or are asked for additional infor- 75 payment terms or provisions that that is highly technical, but not muchmation? What can you do about it? affect revenue recognition? Identify- interested in the business side, is it pos- First, ask, “What can I do to be a ing these areas of responsibility up sible to identify one person in the groupbetter legal partner?” The more value front can provide clarity in how you to funnel work through? Can each sideyou can bring to the relationship, the work together. be held accountable for performance?more likely it is that your business Continuing on the educational path, At the end of each business meeting,partner will respect your views and have you established template agree- do you identify open items and whoselisten to your advice. For example, do ments with rules of use, explaining job it is to close out each task? Can youyou understand your business? Do the need for certain key language? clearly identify the business owner ofyou understand the pressures your Have you discussed how and when each deal or name the executive sponsorbusiness partner is subject to? Do you certain pain points are best presented watching that the deal gets completedsupport your business partner during to the other side, or at what point legal properly? Any time you can encouragemeetings? Do you meet before a deal should be brought into a deal? Do you business ownership while holding upto discuss and agree upon objectives? attend staff meetings for the technical the legal side of the equation, you areThis might be just another deal adding and sales groups you support? Have heading down the right your already overloaded workday, you presented training modules at staff So, do these ideas always work?but to your business partner, it might meetings to discuss how to work ef- No. But they work sometimes. Ofbe a sale that saves his job or the fectively with legal? course, if all else fails, you can takecompany’s quarterly financials. Under- As a department, have you identi- a very long walk and clear your headstanding the importance of the deal fied the individuals in legal who are before coming back to work. Afterand knowing the business background responsible to support certain agree- all, who among us couldn’t use a bitwill help instill confidence in your ments and groups? Have you prepared more exercise?business partner. an internal business term sheet sum- If you can fairly say that you have marizing the business goals of the pro- Have a comment on this article? Visitcovered the preceding, what have you posed engagement (e.g., deliverables, ACC’s blog at to educate your business part- properties created, ownership, main- articles/acc-docket. FRANK FLETCHER is general counsel for Nero AG headquartered in Karlsbad, Germany with subsidiaries in Hangzhou, China; Yokohama, Japan; and Glendale, Calif., where he usually can be found. Fletcher can be contacted at ACC Docket 20 June 2011