Month: August 2018

Ten Things: Presenting Legal Issues to Senior Executives

I remember my first legal presentation to the full senior executive team very well.  I had just started in and was using my hands to gesture on some point when I caught the coffee cup of the chief operating officer with my right hand and blew a geyser of coffee across her papers and across much of the table.  Oh, God!  I sat there paralyzed and wondered if I had a box handy to gather my personal effects for the walk to the parking garage that was certainly in store for me.  The CEO looked at me, and then at the COO, and just started laughing.  Then he said that it was “probably the best debut before the executive team” that he had ever seen.  We got the table cleaned up and I somehow managed to get back on track and give my presentation, but I realized (and the General Counsel reinforced) that I was pretty lucky to have a forgiving CEO with a sense of humor.  Not everyone is so lucky.

One of the most difficult things for in-house lawyers to do is present legal issues to senior management.  The first problem is usually the lack of experience in presenting to the C-Suite or the Board of Directors.  These opportunities are often rare.  Second, flying coffee aside, it can be very intimidating. Executives have little time to spare and legal issues are generally not high on their list of favorite topics.  You can feel their impatience.  Third, it can be challenging to simplify complex legal issues or the decisions that need to be made.   While it isn’t easy, every in-house lawyer needs to know how to effectively present before the senior executives of the company (including the Board of Directors).  This edition of “Ten Things” sets out the lessons I have learned over a couple of decades of presenting legal issues to the C-Suite:

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Ten Things: What In-House Lawyers Need to Know About Joint Ventures

You’re sitting at your desk, slurping down a big mug of coffee, when the CEO stops by your door.  “Guess what,” she says. “We’re going to do a joint venture with Mega Corp! I need you and your team to get right on it.”  You say, “You’re [messing] with me, right?  Joint ventures are where good business ideas go to die.”  Well, you don’t say it, but you sure are thinking it because you know that most joint ventures never perform as expected, many severely underperform, and most terminate early because the parties cannot agree on some issue.  Regardless, joint ventures are not going away – CEO’s just seem to love them.   And when the business wants to move forward with a perfectly legal idea, in-house counsel fall in line and do their utmost to make the deal happen (and draft documents that help minimize problems down the road).   While it is impossible to consider every possible problem that might arise over the course of the joint venture, you can set up a process that will allow the parties to minimize potential issues.  How?  By spending a lot of time upfront thinking about the key considerations of putting the venture together.  This edition of “Ten Things” walks you through the basics of setting up a joint venture:

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