Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Litigation (PLJ) recently spoke to Sneha Desai, Deputy General Counsel of Litigation at BASF Corporation, about the impact of the pandemic on her department, what law firms have to do to impress her, and the value of diversity.
PLJ: How typical or unique is the scope of responsibilities for the company’s litigation attorneys?
Desai: The litigators are uniquely positioned to lead and support the company’s efforts in mitigating risk related not only to filed litigation but also to disputes that arise every day in our commercial and other dealings with customers, vendors, and suppliers. To serve the best interests of our internal clients, we often spend time resolving issues before they escalate into litigation.
The in-house litigators are also at the forefront of the legal department’s efforts in managing relationships with outside counsel, including ensuring diversity and discussing alternative fee arrangements.
PLJ: What is keeping your company’s litigation attorneys the busiest at the moment?
Desai: Everything! While the pandemic has certainly caused much disruption, the litigation work has not slowed down. As always, much of our responsibilities involve counseling our clients and resolving disputes to avoid litigation. Additionally, we have been involved in virtual hearings, depositions, mediations, and even a trial. My team (including paralegals) has adapted very well to working remotely full-time.
Read the full interview in the June/July issue of Practical Law The Journal: Litigation
PLJ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way your department operates, and do you think any of the changes will continue to be employed beyond the pandemic?
Desai: Being unable to interact with our colleagues in person has taken its toll, but we are all video-conferencing experts at this point. In a strange way, being connected via video has allowed us to become an even more cohesive team. Everyone is on a level playing field in terms of their ability to fully participate, and we are making more of an effort to stay in touch.
Although it remains a challenge to juggle remote work with household responsibilities and to not let work bleed into personal time, these unique circumstances have led us all to become more understanding of each other, and I think that mindset will continue. I also think we will be much more open to conducting remotely some matters that used to routinely be handled in person (like certain depositions, external meetings, and status conferences) to save time and money.
PLJ: What are some approaches that BASF has taken to prioritize diversity?
Desai: BASF has been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion initiatives for several years. I am proud of the efforts that both the company and our legal department have undertaken, such as requiring diverse interview slates and panels and achieving Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Certification Plus status, which reflects our representation of lawyers from historically underrepresented backgrounds in many current leadership roles.
PLJ: What types of issues will cause you to turn to outside counsel?
Desai: We handle a lot of matters in-house, but we turn to outside counsel for any filed litigation and disputes that require expertise that we may not have internally.
PLJ: What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?
Desai: Be responsive, honest, and diverse.
PLJ: What advice would you give to prospective in-house litigation counsel?
Desai: It takes some time, but you have to learn to trust your instinct. Also, be gracious and kind, especially under pressure.
Practical Law is online legal know-how to help you work smarter and faster. Learn more at legal.tr.com.