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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PERSONAL PICK: 50 Things About My OGC - Manila Stint

Come end of May this coming year, I am stepping out of Church employment. To many, it might come as a surprise. To me, however, it is expected and has been the plan (communicated to me shortly after my acceptance of the position to work in the Church Office of General Counsel (OGC) as its International Legal Manager assigned in Manila). Of course, I will not be completely detached or out of touch, because I will still be rendering legal services as an outside counsel, through my own law firm. But part of moving on and bidding adieu my three and a half (3 1/2) years with OGC, I am submitting this list of the “50 Things” that are unique and were learned only through my stint with OGC.

Personal Insights

1.My employment is not just a calling (coz I am compensated), but it is also not just a job. Only here that I make judgments according to the directions of the Spirit. (Elder David Bednar)

2.Caught the Vision:To be exceptional servant to the “Servants of the Lord” and align my work to the emphasis of the Area Presidency and Presiding Bishopric”.

3.Only in my Church employment that I see a Case for Change like this: “Leverage our limited resources to bring more souls unto Christ and sustain exponential Church growth”. What a noble goal and I am glad that I am part of bringing about this change as I find ways to render services in the most timely, efficient, and cost effective manner.

4. I had undergone a “360 Degree Feedback”! The 360 Degree Feedback is a tool for my personal leadership development - an information about how people perceive me as a leader. It compares how I feel about my leadership...and how my supervisor, peers, direct reports, and others (like customers) feel. It identify my leadership strengths, fatal flaws,evalutae my "fit" and move the employee leaders from "good" to "extra ordinary".

5. Based on my 360 Degree Feedback, my leaders (bosses) say " She is very intelligent and well trained in the law. She understands the law and issues most affecting our organization. She is not afraid to take a stand, speak up or defend her position in any setting or group. Driven. She could continue to teach and reinforce principles of the law to others in the organization whose work is affected by the application of law, while at the same time being mindful that she is often speaking and working with those not versed in the law. She is great!"

5. My 360 Degree Feedback shows that my peers perceived me as competent and highly effective. Their written comments are very encouraging: " Communicates ideas excellently with peers. Humble and objective in expressing opinions which may be different from the group. Demonstrate professional and technical expertise. She analyses issue and solve problems. Expert in area of repsonsibility. Pleasant to work with. She is very knowledgeable about the nature, value, and contribution of her work to the organization thus she provides great service with her expertise. She has a strong intellect, knows well the law and can quickly understand the issues to be dealt with to minimize the risk to the Church. She is highly effective in what she currently does."

6. My 360 Degree Feedback shows that Others (Direct Reports) and (Customers) perceived me as "Very intelligent and able to see problems and changes that need to be made for effectiveness. Very good at knowing what needs to be done and finding the right person to do that job. In my delaings with Mhe-anne, she displays the necessary dedication to her job. Somewhat intimidating, could be a better listener.".

7. I learned from my 360 Degree Feedback that my leaders, peers and direct reports and customers does not see anny fatal flaw in me! (Fatal flaw exist when leaders have behavioral or performance issues that, if NOT addressed, could ultimately lead to career derailment or job failure.).

8. I learned that my "balancing act" look like I'm "Managing Vertically" which means that my opinion of my self equals that of my leaders and direct reports, but a little less with peers.

9. So to be an extraordinary leader I chose to improve on to lowest scored items: (i) Provides frequent praise and recognition and (ii) Builds a feedback rich environment.

10. There is such a thing as ‘Succession Planning’ where each manager got to plan their successor or their managers’ successors for the next five years.

Management Style

11.I learn how to properly interface between Church officers, managers and employees, on the one hand, and outside law firms and attorneys, on the other hand, to resolve legal issues affecting the Church.

12.Vendors, outside service providers and consultants are reminded not to give gifts at Christmas time. The gifts given by those who did not heed the request are raffled off during Christmas party.

13.Christmas parties always follow a theme and costume – Filipiniana, Retro and Wild Wild West were great memories for me.

14.Managers and employees who frequently travel are given a JP Morgan Chase Card to use for official expenses and Blackberry for communication. Advance huh!

15.We believe in meetings, we hope for meetings, we have endured many meetings, and hope to be able to endure all meetings. I sit in weekly meetings (i.e. Managers, Area Physical Facilities Committee), bi-monthly meetings (i.e PEF, Legal/Real Etate Coordination), monthly meetings (i.e OGC, Area Controls Committee, Extended Managers Coordination), quarterly meetings (Government Relations, Area Benefits Committee) and special meetings with the Area Presidency.

Strictly OGC

16. Even though I am a full-pledge lawyer, all my legal advice has to be confirmed by an outside counsel.

17. OGC lawyer cannot sit in any Board or executive position in other Church legal entities.

18. OGC lawyer should not sign pleadings

19. Web-Ex Training

20. Outside counsel are contracted abroad and paid in dollars

21. OGC lawyers are addressed by their nickname and not usually have “Attorney” on their names even though they are all great lawyers.

22. Obtaining Settlement Authority

23. Obtaining Authority to File Case

24. Incident Report

25. InfoGuide

Professional Learnings

26.Doing lawyer’s work in-house with outside local counsel help is less costly and more efficient. My familiarity with the Church organizational and operational structures reduced the need for frequent visits, and back and forth correspondence usually associated when only the outside counsel does the work. Thus the costs associated to it are significantly reduced.

27.To ensure quality and efficiency, Local counsel should have a fixed fee arrangement (than billing by the hour) so that they will be more motivated to close a transaction quickly.

28.My physical proximity (or any Church in-house counsel) means more responsiveness, convenience, rapid service, and better understanding of the problems.

29.Local counsel are managed through monitoring and convergence. Monitoring local counsel “questioning fees, denying disbursements, and insisting on strict case management procedures” can be done without hurting them.

30.I learned economies of scale in handling large numbers of complex repetitive transactions (especially in Real Estate transactions).

31.I learned economies of scope by avoiding the learning curve of having to become educated about Church’s regulation and its organizational and operational structure.

32.I learned to become more comfortable about rendering informal legal advice.


34.The Aquinos.

35.The D’s. I hope we don't get to meet many of them, who out of pure greed would claim that they are employees of the Church when they know in their hearts that they are not, and they are just hired by the missionaries out of kind consideration and desire to help.

36.The Las Pinas Chapel. Spiritual foresight. The chapel was built about 8-meter away from the property line. Couple of years later, an easement of road right of way was demanded by the government and the service area and the gate will be moved back 5-meters. Here I got the spiritual insights also to know who to talk to so the demolition will be done by the church and not by MMDA.

37.The Labangon experience. A purchase that involved about 30 heirs with differing interests and persuasions. I learned that a Preliminary Title Report would have save all the complexities if only it was done before the commitments were made and the released of payment were made.

38.The Balagtas.

39.Cebu Philippines Temple. It feels good to be part of the construction team for this very important building for the Filipinos.

40.I learned that there are many people (including lawyers) who do not understand the concept of a corporation sole - that it is a legal entity composed of only one person and the incumbent corporation sole has a juridical or legal personality separate from the incorporator/his successor. In the same way that a corporation is able to act through its board of directors and/or its agents, the incumbent corporation sole, is able to act through agents.

41.Lorelle Holdings. First time that the issue on payment of a creditable withholding tax instead of the usual Capital Gains Tax came out since the property involved is an ordinary asset.

42.Utilized Local Counsel in all real estate acquisitions and handling of civil, labor, and criminal cases for the Church and are consulted on major legal issues.

43.Registration and Tax Compliance








Monday, December 15, 2008

PERSONAL PICK: Going In-House!

The month of November marked as my fifth year of being an in-house lawyer, and third year in my current position as an international legal manager for the Office of General Counsel Asia of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since I was then only in my late twenties, landing an in-house counsel job is considered to be a lucky streak in the sense most people use the word. As with other awards and commendations I received – among others, passing the Philippine Bar Examination in 1998, and consequently becoming one of the youngest female lawyers in the country, graduating as class valedictorian in the college of Law, cum laude in the University, and becoming a recipient of several awards and scholastic achievements since my elementary days, I remember family, friends and colleagues coming to me extending that heartfelt word of “congratulation” and a pat on the back saying I am either- intelligent, smart, hard working, diligent and lucky. Then, I don’t like to be called lucky! For me, luck connotes an unpredictable attribute, something beyond my control to change or reverse, such that those who are blessed with luck is raised to the heights, while plunging those whom it eludes to the depths of self-pity and defeat .

My view has changed after reading the book “How to Attract Good Luck” by A.H.Z Carr. The book was a Christmas gift by my friend Doris in 2003 and it has helped me ever since. As I learned the true nature of luck, I made good luck a constant factor in any project I wish to bring to fruition and I constantly take positive steps to attract luck in my life. LUCKY becomes my favorite word!

At the outset, the book differentiates “chance” and “luck” – (words I used to think were closely related, and often used interchangeably), but according to Mr. Carr actually contains a world of difference and are only distant cousins. “Chance” is defined as the “unknown, or unidentified, cause of events not subject to calculation” while “luck” is the effect of “chance” in our lives.

Mr. Carr’s book is replete with various lucky people’s actual experiences that left me no doubt that good luck can be induced. It lies within our power to influence, not chance, certainly, but our relation to chance. And by that very fact, none of us can escape a measure of responsibility for our own luck. I began to see that in order to become known as one of the lucky ones, we need to develop a number of characteristics which have an especially close relationship to the workings of chance: zest and generosity, with their power to attract luck into our lives; alertness, self-knowledge, judgment, self-respect, and intuition – all of high value in the recognition of a favorable chances; and qualities of especial significance in our responses to chance - energy, confidence, and determination – imagination – and the courage, sense of proportion, and integrity that grow out of faith.

Yes, I am lucky! And as I continue to develop the qualities that relate to luck, I can well be on the way to a higher luck-potential. Taking Mr. Carr’s advised I pick for a beginning in luck-development a promising characteristic which is merely underdeveloped rather than one in which I am gravely deficient. As an example, I focused my energy in developing zest and generosity which acted as magnets and attracted favorable chances of becoming an in-house and corporate counsel at a fairly young age.

To be zestful is to have within our minds a secret and exhaustible fountain of youth, which could be attained either through a more productive reading, a hobby, a new experience or the broadening of our human contacts, according to Mr. Carr.

I was visiting my friend, Atty. Jon, at his office in Makati sometime in November 2003. I soon learned that he had been Almeda, Inc.’s in house-counsel for barely two years at that time (and would soon be leaving the company once appointed as a Fiscal). When I was ushered into his office, he was having a discussion with boss Edwin. The heated discussion revolves around eminent domain (a concept in law that the State can take a private property for public use). Jon introduced me to boss Edwin as his law school classmate and class valedictorian. That introduction invited interest in the eyes of boss Edwin. He then asked me of my thoughts on the eminent domain issue which I readily obliged. I do not remember now what I have said but that started my career in the company as its In-House Corporate and Litigation Counsel! Taking Mr. Carr’s word, here’s a quick completion of luck-cycle: the zestful me –the stranger boss Edwin – the favorable chance – the stroke of luck.

My generous spirit, on the other hand, paved the way for my present position. In June 2005, at my friend Brian’s request, I agreed to meet Karen and Wendy, American law students who were then doing internship in my current company’s Hongkong’s office and visiting the Philippines. The information their boss Jim Pollock learned from them brought some kind of a déjà vu to him of my name and positive description! (Deja vu is the feeling that one has seen or heard something before). Jim asked if I have time to do something for the Church’s corporation. I instinctively said yes even though I did not know exactly what he would possibly ask me do. But whatever that was I was very willing to do it, at no cost. About a month later, I got a phone call from Jim’s office and the rest is history. So again, quoting from Mr. Carr, “Selfishness invites bad luck, while our warm-spirited behavior tends to pull lucky chances toward us”.

“How to Attract Good Luck” is an excellent book that can serve as a blueprint for everyone. It did for me! I’ll learn that – any person can attract luck with almost mathematical certainty. It is simply a matter of one’s personality – an adequate self-image, a capacity for hard work, a careful self-evaluation and certain other attributes can change a negative and failure prone personality to a positive one that admits no defeat and recognizes that good luck is not an accident.

As I have seen from the book of Mr. Carr, the influence of chance on our luck is profoundly shaped by our own actions. Now that I have written about the book “How to Attract Good Luck” as an entry to My Favorite Book contest is in itself a chance. So to me --- good luck!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PERSONAL PICK: 13 Things Each Local Counsel Should Know

Only recently, I stumbled upon this article of Bob Gans in Legal Times entitled “13 SIMPLE STEPS: WHAT IN-HOUSE LAWYERS WISH LAW FIRMS KNEW”! I think this is really interesting and captures in sum OGC’s expectation on all our Local Counsel.

13 Simple Steps: What In-House Lawyers Wish Law Firms Knew

Bob Gans
Legal Times
September 11, 2006

As we all know, law firms are constantly courting in-house counsel, in search of new business. Unfortunately for most of them, we in-house counsel usually have a favorite firm (or firms) with which we like to work. Thus, getting a foot in the door is not easy.That is why it is essential to succeed consistently once we’ve retained you. And by succeed, I don’t mean winning every case every time — although that would be nice for us both, right? But we do expect certain things from you in order to maintain a long and successful relationship. After all, we like to think of outside counsel as partners. As a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association, I’ve had the advantage of hearing war stories over the years from numerous in-house colleagues about their good and bad experiences with outside counsel. Yes, we do talk about you behind your back, but, believe it or not, the praise far outweighs the criticism (we can only hope the feeling is somewhat mutual). Based on those informal discussions, unscientific surveys and idle cocktail-party banter, I’ve gathered a list of the top 13 (I’m not superstitious) things my colleagues and I want and expect from our partners.

1. Communicate with me.

There are a lot of smart lawyers out there, but not all of them communicate well. Regular and sustained contact with me is a necessity. If you succeed on this point, the other points below will fall into line. You should be able to quickly gauge how frequently I want you to communicate with me. Cultivating a relationship through quarterly letters or e-mail is not sufficient. At the other extreme, hourly phone calls to me on every minor issue are way too much. Getting so caught up in the fine points of litigating the case (which is your primary role) should not distract you from coordinating with your client on those fine points and, perhaps more important, on the bigger picture in a consistent way. Dialogue and understanding of each other are necessary ingredients for a sustained relationship.

2. Pay attention to your billing.

Give me monthly, easy-to-read, accurate billing, please. Make it easy for me to know who did what and when and how much it cost. Talk to me about how much detail I want or need in the bills. Review your bills to discover any errors, overcharges or other issues before I do. And sometimes my client and I may need to know how much our current attorney fees are, so enter your time promptly. I remember once seeing a lawyer on the Metro, writing down his billable hours for the past two weeks. He explained to me — with a straight face — that he “diligently” tracked his billable time like that and gave it to his secretary to enter at the end of each month. I wouldn’t put his firm on my short-list for hire. Oh, and if you don’t nickel-and-dime me, I won’t nickel-and-dime you.

3. Use efficient technology.

We are in the 21st century. If I’m tech savvy, make sure you are, as well. If I’m not, bring me up to speed if I’m willing to learn. Don’t confuse me if I’m not. Use technologies that will help me communicate with you. For example, for better or worse, many of us rely on e-mail more than “snail mail” and faxes. So if I want a “soft copy” of everything, don’t send another hard copy by mail later — save some trees. At the same time, don’t get carried away. Conducting all of your business with me from your cell phone is a bit annoying; I prefer keeping our discussions privileged rather than sharing them with everyone within earshot of the boarding area for Flight 151.

4. Don’t just say yes.

I didn’t hire you to agree with me all the time. I hired you for your legal savvy, and I want and respect your opinion and advice. So speak up. If I don’t agree with you, I’ll let you know. And if you think I’m wrong, I need you to tell me why. The words “neutral” and “lawyer” don’t go together. I once had an outside counsel diligently report the procedural aspects of a case to me, without ever giving me suggestions on what to do next. Again, this is not a firm I’d put on my short-list anymore. Without your opinion, we’re just wasting each other’s time.

5. Know my business or learn it quickly.

You have hundreds of clients; they’re all different. I can appreciate that, but you still need to take the time to understand my company, the business I’m in and the nuances that come with that business. Just because something worked for another client of yours does not mean it will work for my company. There is something unique about every company and organization — the people, the product, the service and the financial, legal or political environment. It’s never the same. Recognize that.

6. Know my litigation style.

Many of us were in law firms before moving in house and have developed particular views on litigation strategy. Learn these views upfront and understand the business factors that could affect these views. Is it to our benefit to have an extension of time to respond to a pleading, based on internal company matters of which you are unaware? Do we want to depose the plaintiff immediately, or should we complete written discovery matters first? Do I want to negotiate now, later or never? And at what point do I want to send that message to the opposing party? The answers to these questions certainly vary by case, but there are some underlying philosophies we can share with each other by discussing them upfront. Plus, if our philosophies differ, it doesn’t mean I don’t want you as my outside counsel. I can learn from your experience, just as you can learn from mine.

7. Create a budget for all options.

Tell me, How much is this going to cost?” Yes, I know it’s one of the two worst questions you get from in-house counsel. The other one is, “What percentage chance do we have if this goes to a jury trial?” At least try to give me a rough cost estimate — best- and worst-case scenarios — as soon as possible. I promise not to hold you to your exact budget, and, yes, I realize there are unforeseen circumstances. I need this information for my client’s understanding, risk analysis and budgetary-planning purposes. Oh, and as soon as you think your budget may be substantially off, communicate this to me.

8. Plan ahead.

Understand my comfort level with your work. Some of us want to review every letter, brief and research memo you produce, while others may trust you to handle most of this without oversight. Usually, you will find that we are somewhere in between. Also, if you helped me litigate a case for months and months, you should have a pretty good head start on the motion for summary judgment we’ve always known we were going to file. Since you know I want to review the draft before it is filed (we always do), don’t give it to me the day before it’s due. As you know, the law is about telling a compelling story. You should work with me in preparing it from day one — we will revisit it, modify it and finalize it over time.

9. Help me practice everywhere.

I have litigation matters all over the place; no, I’m not talking about my desk. It’s hard enough to master the state-law issues in one state, but I need to know how a law or decision in one jurisdiction might affect my company’s business in another. That’s why I hired your firm. Help me practice nation- or worldwide. I may not hire you for all of the “out-of-state” cases, but I will appreciate your help in pointing me in the right direction. And in your newsletters, if the news could affect my business, let me know how.

10. Recognize that I have “clients,” too.

I may be able to read and understand the intricacies of your fifth-year associate’s eight-page legal memorandum, complete with citations and footnotes. But I need to advise my clients in a way they will understand, so don’t make me translate your work into layperson’s terms. Some of the best legal briefings I’ve gotten from outside counsel were simple PowerPoint presentations prepared with my client in mind.

11. Be cost-efficient.

I’m usually not out to make new law; my job is to resolve matters in a cost-efficient manner. I’m willing to pay your firm’s astronomical rates if your people get the job done more efficiently than a less-expensive firm. I’m open to considering alternative billing methods beyond the “six-minute-increment” method. Also, don’t raise your rates on me without telling me first. And I don’t want to pay for you to train a new associate on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or on how to prepare for their first deposition or for the 10 hours it took to draft that two-page memo that sort of answers a question that a senior partner could have answered in minutes. I want efficient knowledge at my disposal. That’s why I hired you.

12. Pretend I’m your only client.

OK, I know I’m not. But that shouldn’t stop you from pretending. I know I contact you on a Friday afternoon sometimes and want you to do something for me by Monday morning. I’m sorry about that. But I’ll make an effort to curtail those phone calls, as long as you stop calling me from the airport on your way to some other client’s deposition or trial, and try to sound like your full attention is on my case. Staff my cases efficiently, so if you’re out of pocket for a while, I’ll barely even notice. While you are gone, I don’t mind being referred to associates assigned to my case, as long as they know what they are doing (let’s face it, the case documents will probably be in their offices, anyway).

13. Make me look good.

If you can remember only two of the points on this list, remember the first one and this last one. Recognize that while you are a revenue-generating star in your firm, I am just another cost center in a business operation — meaning, I need to justify my existence on an annual, if not daily, basis, so your job is to make me look good. And if I look good, you look good.Thanks, partner.

Bob Gans is senior employment counsel in the Falls Church, Va., office of Computer Sciences Corp. and a board member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association.