May 2017

It is now public information that our colleague Jeff Carr has been named Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Univar, Inc.  Univar is the “leading chemical distributor in the United States, providing more chemical products and related services than any other company in the marketplace.”   We view Jeff’s departure from ValoremNext with mixed emotions.  Univar is a great opportunity for Jeff to continue his efforts to reshape law departments to be business-like and business-focused, eliminating boundaries between the law department and the business.  We believe in these efforts—ValoremNext is a manifestation of them, a tool to help law departments pursue these goals. We hope to have some role in Jeff’s efforts, but, if not, we will be watching his “mad scientist” efforts with equal measures of pride and interest, and sadness that he is no longer our colleague.

We learned a great deal from Jeff, first as a service-provider to him while he was General Counsel of FMC Technologies, and then as his colleague.  The rigor of his approach, his view that the law department (and law firms too) need to run like a business, including clarity of “principles, rules and tools.”  We learned about “Stretch, Step, Leap,” a way to view change, and “Plan, Perform, Perfect,” an approach that is essential to an organization that seeks continuous improvement. We learned the incredible value of prevention and his secrets to building a prevention culture. And I learned more about what law departments think and why than I had learned in the prior 30+ years of work.

Jeff was my friend before he became my colleague, and this opportunity does not change our friendship.  If anything, the proximity of Downers Grove, where Univar is headquartered, to my suburb may allow us to enjoy more time together so we can, with appropriate lubrication, work on solving the problems that plague not only the profession, but world at large.  I won’t miss Jeff’s continual push to be more than I am, to be better at what I do and to see the joy in the life we are privileged to lead.  I won’t miss those things because, when you are friends, those things never change.

Here’s hoping Jeff’s path brings him back again.

For those interested, here is a link to Univar’s announcement.

I have long hated boilerplate objections, which frequently are made to “kick the can” down the road. That is, if you object to a request are “unduly burdensome” or “overbroad,” you can avoid answering for now and have more time to figure out what the answer is. Or maybe your opponent will forget about the request and you will never have to answer.  The flip side is use of boilerplate requests and interrogatories. I remember litigating a lease dispute case in California and wondering why I had to answer form interrogatories about an occurrence that never took place.  With that a background, I enjoyed reading Steven Gensler’s new post, Is It The End Of Boilerplate In Discovery?  I commend it to you.

Sorry, but I just found out that Valorem is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Alternative Fee Arrangements. So I have to take a minute to celebrate this “achievement.”

Various firms and corporations are credited with leading the way in AFAs. Leading the charge are corporate clients such as Du Pont, Cisco, and FMC [Technologies]. Corporate clients are looking for a combination of cost savings, cost certainty, and alignment of law-firm interests with corporate interests in avoiding an excess of hours worked—and billed. Law firms such as K&L Gates and Valorem are taking the lead in proposing AFAs.

I feel like my life is now complete.  Well, wait, does Guinness have an AFA category in its Book of World Records?