Last week, Lumen Legal hosted a free webinar about “Managing Global Legal Spend”. This was our fifth webinar in our 2012 series for Corporate Counsel. I was the topic expert and I invited Debra Kuper, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of AGCO Corporation to be my guest speaker.
You may have heard of John Deere in the United States, but AGCO is a largest full-line agricultural manufacturer in the world. Their tractors, combines and other farm equipment are sold in more than 140 countries. Since they began in 1990, they have grown to a $9 billion dollar company with 20,000 employees.
Ms. Kuper has overall responsibility for AGCO’s legal matters, including acting as the chief legal officer for managing litigation, regulatory and securities filings, executive compensation, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and other worldwide activities. She is also a member of the senior management. She supervises 25 in-house attorneys, 12 support staff, 17 ethics and compliance officers and 18 product safety engineers located in nine countries.
I began by summarizing what we at Lumen Legal see as we work with many corporate legal departments. Most define “legal spend management” as getting the highest value for services at the appropriate cost while minimizing risk. They realize that cheapest isn’t always the best way to go. And they’re doing it by keeping in tune with the evolution of the industry. Some are leveraging technology for legal spend transparency and peer benchmarking (see our May 17 webinar summary while others are integrating legal document automation into their processes (see our February 9 webinar summary. Most are working with their procurement and finance departments to use their expertise to source legal services. And many are seeing the impact of using key performance indicators (KPIs) to manage their performance (see our April 26 webinar summary).
But all realize that globalization increases the complexity of managing their legal spend. Different jurisdictions require different strategies. Building in-house synergy across geographies and business units isn’t easy. How do you build team camaraderie when everyone is so spread out? And Chief Legal Officers have their hands full trying to manage global compliance programs.
That’s why I invited Debra Kuper to help us understand how she leads her global teams. When Debra took over as the new GC in 2008, the great recession was looming. But it was a positive time for her as the downturn propelled her professional creatively, reduced ACGO’s outside legal spend and united the company’s law department on an international scale.
She began by creating a preferred-provider network of law firms that were open to flexible billing. That allowed her to sever ties with over 300 outside law firms and saved the company $4 million in the first year. And she revamped the internal legal structure to make sure all legal employees were aligned with the new growth strategy of the new CEO. Some employees were hired while others were promoted. Some were fired.
She also worked with HR to do a salary benchmarking survey in many locations to insure her key people would stay despite the change in leadership. Internal communications assisted Debra by creating a web site to allow all her business locations to determine who their key legal contact was. This helped the business units to view their legal contact as a partner vs. a scribe.
As AGCO continued to expand into China, Africa and other regions, Debra realized that many of her legal employees were working in silos. And most only had a dotted line to her but a straight line to the local business unit. She wanted to change that. So she traveled across the world to meet all of them in person. She found it much better than conference calls. She talked to them in person and found out what they were doing. She then put together two regional events. Everyone did presentations. It was a huge success. The employees left their countries (some for the first time), met key executives and shared best practices. She also learned they wanted to better understand what the global legal team was doing so in 2010, they all came to the headquarters in Atlanta for the first global legal summit. In 2011, they repeated the summit in Brazil and next year they’ll be in France. The week long summit allows everyone to make presentations, attend workshops and be exposed to the global picture by interacting with the CEO and CFO.
In addition, Debra learned her legal staff wanted to spend time in other locations. Many felt isolated. So she initiated an exchange program to allow them to go to other sites for two weeks to one month while another staff member took their spot. The program was a success. Eight out of 25 in-house counsel have already participated in the program. It further built camaraderie.
It was a very informative webinar. Debra was very open and stayed on to answer many questions from our audience. If you’d like to learn more about Debra’s best practices including how she manages global compliance, click here to download the Powerpoint presentation or watch the webinar. I also invite you to call me if you’d like to talk about how Lumen Legal could help you manage your global legal spend. My direct line is 248-872-5533.