For Premium Subscribers
In this Q&A with Texas Instruments Senior Counsel for M&A Debbie Bartlett, the Lifetime Achievement winner talks challenges for future GCs, advice for young lawyers seeking to go in-house, the changing relationships between in-house counsel and outside lawyers and law firm rate increases.
Texas Lawbook: How has the role of in-house counsel changed during your career?
Debbie Bartlett: For me personally, I think it’s been a move from being in the pits alongside the business guys making change happen to perhaps being more involved in the planning and development of ideas.
Lawbook: What do you see as the biggest challenges for in-house and GCs of Texas companies going forward?
To read Mark Curriden’s full-length profile of Debbie Bartlett Click Here.
Bartlett: This will sound like an old person’s answer, but it is. I hear too much about automation and metrics. I think these things can be good tools in business but perhaps not so much in the practice of law. I still think lawyers have a role in making sure the ship is sailing straight and true and not just fast. I think folks in the business sometimes need to talk with lawyers and have the lawyers as thought-partners – thought-partners not just for business but legally and ethically as well. That sort of thing can’t be handled with an online service, or necessarily measured with numbers.
Lawbook: What advice do you give young lawyers seeking to go in-house?
Bartlett: Look carefully at the opportunity — too many companies expect in-house lawyers to be yes men. If you can find a good opportunity, where you can play an important role, take it. It can be an opportunity to create something great.
Lawbook: What do you look for when considering outside counsel for transactions such as the M&A transactions?
Bartlett: First of all, you’ve got to know your stuff. Secondly, it really, really helps if you know my stuff, too — if you understand, at least at a preliminary level, the semiconductor business (which means you have to understand a lot about IP law). You’ve got to have expertise in all the areas that we need – IP, HR, antitrust, CFIUS, etc. And you have to be very, very responsive. If I’m working around the clock, you should be as well.
Lawbook: How has the relationship between in-house counsel and outside firms/lawyers changed over the years?
Bartlett: I think it has gotten better. I remember days when outside counsel could be so arrogant. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that.
Lawbook: According to recently filed bankruptcy documents in SDTX, we are about to see the first Texas-based lawyers charging near or at $2,000 an hour. Did you ever think we would see Texas lawyers billing at those rates?
Bartlett: That does seem a bit outrageous. M&A has always billed at high rates – but I think somewhat deservedly so — we are asking for perfection as quickly as possible. And they’re still cheaper (and do more) than the bankers.