Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Litigation (PLJ) recently spoke to Stephen S. Mar, Global Head of Litigation at WeWork, about what law firms need to do to impress him
PLJ: How typical or unique is the scope of responsibilities for the company’s litigation attorneys?
Mar: Quite unique. Our litigators are expected to be generalists who can handle defensive and offensive disputes of all sizes and subjects, from the pre-litigation phase through final judgment. Beyond the litigation context, we also serve as strategic partners to business and legal leaders across the company, who will consult with us on various issues and ask us to participate in cross-functional initiatives.
PLJ: What is keeping your company’s litigation attorneys the busiest at the moment?
Mar: Given the scope and scale of our business offerings, we regularly deal with a wide variety of issues, including real estate, securities, commercial, construction, personal injury, and regulatory matters. Unsurprisingly, more recently, we have also spent time advising on various issues and efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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?
Mar: Our litigation team, like many others, has had to adapt to conducting remote depositions and hearings. On a department level, however, COVID-19 has not impacted our operations as much as you might expect. We have worked with our teams to de-densify our spaces and figure out sensible flexible work solutions.
It helps to work for a company that happens to know a bit about those sorts of issues!
Read the full interview in the April/May issue of Practical Law The Journal: Litigation
PLJ: What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?
Mar: A law firm should:
- Treat the engagement like a long-term partnership, not a one-off matter. This means taking the time to learn our business and internalize our objectives and values, and then incorporate these factors into the firm’s advice and strategy. This also means being flexible and willing to work with us on pricing and staffing.
- Be responsive and communicative. This includes keeping us up to date and involved in strategy and making sure the advice provided to us is practical and actionable, which, in turn, helps us to better service our own clients.
- Staff our matters with diverse attorneys and promote them to partnership and other leadership positions within the firm.
PLJ: What is the best career advice you ever received?
Mar: Never present a problem without a solution. It is a simple concept, but especially as a litigator, there is tremendous value in being seen by your clients as solution-oriented rather than problem-oriented.
PLJ: What is one mistake you made early on in your legal career and what did you learn from that experience?
Mar: I used to worry too much about “showing my work,” which led to cover emails, memos, and briefs that were longer and more detailed than necessary. Since then, I have spent significant time learning to be more succinct and direct in all professional written communications. That skill has served me especially well as an in-house attorney.
PLJ: What advice would you give to prospective in-house litigation counsel?
Mar: Be practical, not academic. As an in-house litigator, I am constantly asked for on-the-spot legal or risk mitigation advice — often without the luxury of time to research or think through all hypothetical issues. Your ability to immediately assess the most salient risks and translate that assessment into practical advice will be critical to your success.
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