Feature interview: global legal department operations with Pierre Landy

Lauren Lee | September 5, 2018 | Articles

We’re sitting down with legal professionals to learn more about their roles and responsibilities, uncover useful insights and best practices, and discuss their view on the future and evolution of legal technology.

In today’s feature interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with Pierre Landy, General Counsel at Ledger, a leader in security and infrastructure solutions for cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications with offices in Paris, Vierzon, New York, Hong-Kong, and San Francisco.

Having held roles within in-house and outside counsel teams around the world, Pierre shares his unique and global perspective on legal tech and the modern legal department.

With almost two decades of General Counsel experience, what has been the biggest “legal transformation” from your perspective?

Technology. Everything today is digital.

We have Zoom, Google Drive and Google Docs, Docusign, and many more. If used properly, these cloud technologies result in greater efficiencies and allow in-house counsel to collaborate in a more efficient manner.

Before, the process of sharing information and communicating with a team spread across various geographic reasons was slowed by the need to send emails (if not faxes at the beginning of my career), only to wait for the recipient to react to it and send it back. When compared to the many means of communication we have today, it’s clear that technology has resulted in the biggest transformation for legal roles.

Do you feel like legal has adopted technology slower than other departments?

Definitely. Companies based in the United States are starting to adopt and even embrace legal technology, but here in France where I live, larger companies are not always ready for the same legal tech movement. In particular, more traditional French companies still leverage outdated software and there’s a known resistance to change. This makes it more difficult to switch to newer technologies despite an understanding of the benefits they provide.

While traditional companies are slower to adopt, smaller companies, specifically French, UK, and German startups, are at the precipice of legal tech. I predict that the adoption of more modern solutions will follow the same trend that can be observed today in the US, it will just take a little more time.

Speaking of your experiences as the General Counsel for Ledger, Yahoo! Europe, and Yahoo! France, are there unique legal issues that an EU company/EU subsidiaries of a US company faces versus a company that operates in the US?

US companies tend to forget that the European Union is a set of countries, at times each with their own way of enforcing and implementing EU regulations. As a result, there are legal nuances that local general counsel and their corporate departments must navigate to effectively manage the slight variations in local law from EU regulations.

Language is another challenge. A lot of people speak English, but it is often harder to find lawyers who are bilingual – not so much in the northern countries but it’s definitely something we see more here in France and Southern EU Countries. Even from a young age, in France for example, our youth isn’t immersed into English. Movies are dubbed into French, and English isn’t being pushed in schools. In recent years, however, things are finally changing on that front.

What advice would you give to a GC who oversees a team of legal ops professionals, lawyers, and paralegals across multiple countries and wants to run a more efficient department?

Focus on leadership. GCs have many responsibilities, but often do not spend time enhancing their soft skills. A GC’s end goal should be to do everything they can to hire a self-managing team. This involves hiring “super professionals” and giving them the freedom and training to work independently and focus on their own, high-priority tasks.

This also includes empowering your team with the tools they need to be more efficient. SimpleLegal is one of those tools. No matter the level of maturity or size of a legal department, the General Counsel must have a system of record that provides necessary data. Once you know how much your team is spending and where that spend is going, you can identify areas to be more efficient and make informed business decisions around budget and headcount.

Having been on the in-house and outside counsel side of things, what are the biggest differences?

There is still some alignment that needs to happen around pricing. Outside counsel needs to be more practical, understanding that the days of hourly fees are more or less over. Legal departments want to know how much it is going to cost them at the onset of a project, requiring outside counsel to be more organized in regards to their billing structure.

Billing guidelines are great in helping set expectations with law firms, making sure there are no surprises. Charges are clear (yes or no) and don’t need to be suggested. Of course, people can disagree and legal departments can make an exception to the rule, but the rules are set.

Besides that, there aren’t many differences. I see the two professions moving towards one another to create a lasting partnership. There are many legal professionals coming in-house after working at a law firm, which is great because they can think and act like outside counsel. They are familiar with implementing legal compliance and preventive measures, weighing risks, negotiating, etc. It is also beneficial when your outside counsel comes from the “in-house” world and is thus likely to be more business-oriented, ensuring that their work aligns with both departmental and organizational goals.

Closing out our interview, is there one technology that every in-house team needs?

I don’t think I can pick just one, so here is my foundational technology suite:

  • Video conferencing – Zoom, Skype
  • Content sharing – Google Drive, Microsoft 360
  • e-Signature – Concord, Docusign
  • Legal Operations Platform – One that works for the 21st century (SimpleLegal)

Stay In the Know

We’d like to thank Pierre for taking the time to chat with us! If you enjoyed today’s interview, subscribe to our legal ops blog to make sure you never miss insights from our feature interviews. And if you, or a fellow colleague, is interested in sharing your in-house counsel experiences, email [email protected].