CLIENTSpeak: Ryland Pond, The Durban Group

Society 54 gives you direct access to what In-House Counsel and other purchasers of legal services want from their lawyers and law firms. The Q&A below is from a recent interview we conducted with Ryland Pond, General Counsel for The Durban Group, a market leading developer, owner and operator of retail, residential, and office properties throughout the United States.

Q. What factors influence whether you hire outside counsel?
A: Whether I retain outside counsel is largely need based. My “need” can be based on my core legal competency or my current capacity/work load. For example, I didn’t feel sufficiently competent to guide one of our business ventures through the intellectual property gauntlet of trademarking the company brand and logo, so engaged outside counsel for assistance. Alternatively, while I am capable of handling our business organization and corporate structure, oftentimes I will have outside counsel assist me when time is of the essence and the cost of that service is acceptable. Similarly, I don’t perform the role of closing attorney on our real estate transactions. I have two law firms with which I work regularly that assist me with our real estate transactions and corporate work.

Q: What are some things that outside counsel have done that have made a positive impression and/or impact?
A: Timely responsiveness to emails and requests for assistance are one of the most important factors to me when evaluating outside counsel. Those attorneys who respond timely and meaningfully will make the positive impression or impact. Those who fail to respond to emails or fail to complete the task requested in a timely manner leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Q: Do in-house counsel care if your outside counsel is a super/best/elite lawyer?
A: I do not take this into account whatsoever. I understand and acknowledge that these awards carry merit, but have found that it oftentimes is the basis for unnecessarily increased fees.

Q: What advice would you give to a junior associate at a law firm?
A: The legal profession is saturated with lawyers that are obstructionists, focused on “lawyering” documents to the highest degree without looking at the big picture of accomplishing the client’s primary objective. Lawyers are hard wired to trouble shoot and point out a client’s potential exposure. While that is a very vital part of any lawyer’s job, lawyers should focus more of their efforts on finding a solution as to how a client can achieve a desired goal, rather than point out why they can’t proceed down a desired path. Finding solutions should be the ultimate goal, not merely pointing out hurdles or obstacles.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes outside counsel can make (what should law firms avoid)?
A: For new clients, managing expectations should be paramount. The worst thing that can happen from a business development standpoint is to over promise and under deliver.