Law Department Management Newsletter February Issue
> Message from Chair  
> How Does Your Legal Department Handle Outside Counsel? Q&A with Ehtna M.S. Piazza, General Counsel, Taylor Guitars  
> Sponsor Highlights  
> ACC Mid-Year Meeting NYC  
> GC/CLO Resources  
> LDMC Membership Updates  
> Ready to Volunteer?  
> Credits  
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Updates From ACC Committees

Message from Chair
Steven Mashal, Corporate Counsel, American Council on Exercise, Chair, LDMC

I want to write to everyone about a current theme that the ACC is driving towards this year. That theme is cooperation. ACC is actively fostering cooperation among committees, cooperation between committees and chapters, cooperation between sponsors and members. This concept applies to all of you – our over 6,000 members. While the Law Department Management Committee has fantastic leadership and they have great ideas, there is no way that the 15 of us can easily represent all of the talent, skill and IDEAS that the entire membership has.  However, you have the ability to help us in our goal to put on the programs for, find the resources to help, and meet the needs of, all of you. What is this magical ability you already have?

Your cooperation!

Cooperate with fellow LDMC members. We have an eGroup where any member can post questions that any other subscriber can answer. I am pleased to say that our members participate and provide suggestions, answers, guidance and advice on a variety of topics. The more you participate, the more helpful the eGroup is. You never know when you may reach out to the committee membership seeking help via the eGroup. In addition, we use the eGroup to look for topic ideas for programs.  Make the time to attend the monthly meetings. We always have good Legal Quick Hits and we also provide updates on what the committee is doing. Attend ACC education programs and meetings.  The networking opportunities alone are worth the registration fee.

Cooperate with the Committee Leadership. On the Law Department Management Committee page on the ACC website is a Leadership tab that lists all of our subcommittee chairpeople and their contact information. Think there is a bill or policy that the ACC should be supporting, contact our terrific Advocacy Chair. Have a topic for a legal quick hit that you would like us to put on, tell our super Communications Chairs. Want to be on a speaker for one of the soon-to-be announced LDMC panels at the Annual Meeting, contact our Program Chairs. Not sure who to contact about an idea you have, feel free to contact me or Vice Chair Stephen Roth and we will make sure to get you to the right person.

I am pleased to be able to tell you about the success story of one or our members who took advantage of cooperation. This member had an idea for a panel for the Annual Meeting that they sent on to me. It was something we had not put on before and the Leadership team was intrigued with the topic.  We ended up including that panel with those we have submitted to the ACC for inclusion in the 2016 Annual Meeting. By speaking up and submitting an idea, this member may soon see their panel idea presented to many of you at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

With your cooperation, participation, ideas and energy, we can continue to be a Committee that helps each member do their best as an active member of their law department.
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How Does Your Legal Department Handle Outside Counsel? Q&A with Ehtna M.S. Piazza, General Counsel, Taylor Guitars

This newsletter edition we are pleased to welcome Ethna M.S. Piazza, General Counsel for Taylor Guitars.  Ms. Piazza’s legal department includes her and a paralegal and a paralegal-in-training.  She joined the company in 2012 as their first in-house lawyer and General Counsel.  The company has over $100 Million in sales.  Taylor Guitars is based in El Cajon, California, where it has a manufacturing facility.  It also has manufacturing in Tecate, Mexico, a Sales office and warehouse in Amsterdam, and an ebony mill in Yaoundé, Cameroon.  It employs over 900 people worldwide.

Prior to working for Taylor Guitars, Ms. Piazza was in-house counsel with Exxon, a partner at Sheppard Mullin, a shareholder at Chamberlain Hrdlicka and a partner at Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory &Natis.  In these roles, she focused on mergers and acquisitions, corporate law, venture capital financing, and software and other intellectual property licensing.

LDMC:  Please tell us a little about your law department.

Piazza:  For the first year, it was a department of one, just me.  The company knew that they needed a legal focus to handle growth.   On the first day, I was called into a meeting where they were discussing forestry issues, Lacey Act and CITES, which were all new to me.  On the one hand, I was reviewing contracts, which were familiar to me, and on the other hand, I was being required to dig in to learn new legal areas such as forestry.  Soon, I also began working with key executives on company strategy and for registering trademarks worldwide.  I now have two staff members supporting the Legal Department.  One has a focus on compliance, administrative and IP registrations, renewals, and brand protection.  Another handles contract review and tracking.   The team also helped in implementing an electronic legal invoicing and matter management system.

LDMC:  What are the typical matters you handle in-house?

Piazza:  A lot of the work handled in house are developing forms and contracts that are key to the business and growth, such as US and International dealer and distributor contracts.  A majority of regulatory matters are handled in-house.  There is a lot of day to day counseling on legal issues that come up in the operation of the business.   In the few years I have been here, I have worked with every department and office in the company. I even traveled to visit the mill in Cameroon, Africa, where I met with local counsel and with forestry officials.  I have also worked on larger strategies and legal strategies such a process of efficiently handling a large number of contracts with dealers and vendors, and developing new contract forms and e-signature e-document processes.  It has been a constant process of research, education and growth.

LDMC:  What matters do you send to outside counsel?

Piazza:  Specialty areas are outsourced, such as sweepstakes, human resources, IP applications and registrations, FCPA and antitrust.  I also work with outside counsel on contracts in specialty areas such as entertainment law and when workload from multiple simultaneous projects does not allow me to review every contract.  I stay very involved with outside counsel to ensure the factual background and business goals are communicated.

LDMC:  How do you choose your outside counsel?

Piazza:  I look for lawyers that are practical, efficient, match our company culture and can provide advice in plain English.  The business people are just as busy as I am, so I need the legal advice to be easily understood.  The Company wants to comply and is very inquisitive.  We like to ask a lot of questions about an issue and alternatives available.  Therefore, I look for attorneys that are happy to respond to questions and are willing to explain things from multiple perspectives.  I also look for lawyers that understand what is “market” and can anticipate and help answer company questions.

LDMC:  Do you send out legal matters to bid?

Piazza:  We have done that for our patent and trademark management.

LDMC:  What do you do to control outside spend costs?

Piazza:  I discuss scope and budgets at the beginning of all outsourced work.  I use an electronic billing system that helps me to keep notes about budget expectations and allows me to talk with outside counsel when we near budget limits.  Setting expectations at the beginning helps tremendously.  I find that outside counsel appreciate the direction that helps them to meet my expectations.  Keeping in close contact with outside counsel also helps to keep within budget.  On larger projects, we also discuss division of responsibility to see how we can keep costs down while also getting the high level legal advice that we need.

LDMC:  Anything other tips you can offer to our readers?

Piazza:  Efficiency through technology is becoming very important.  Time saving frees up time to handle additional tasks and do more planning.   I look for lawyers that use of technology for efficiency and better teamwork.  For instance, our IP firm uses an extranet where both the company and law firm can upload files to eliminate large email attachments, eliminate problems with version control, and allow us quickly to find documents and information that we need.  We used the site to quickly upload and organize hundreds of pages of items needed to respond to an office action.   Therefore, tech-savvy lawyers can help on many levels beyond simply the dollar budget, they can help with the time budget, too.

Steven Mashal, Corporate Counsel, American Council on Exercise, Chair, LDMC
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Sponsor Highlights
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

LDMC members:

Hello LDMC members and Happy New Year!

In this upcoming year, our focus, alongside the LDMC leadership, will continue to be on how we can best serve you.  As we work to strengthen our program planning for this year, one area in particular that we want to emphasize is the leadership side of being a corporate counsel.  We recognize that in-house attorneys aren’t just legal advisors to their clients—they’re also looked upon to know the company’s business and provide practical, business advice in their roles as well.  We are looking for ways to continue to incorporate business leadership skills and learning opportunities into our programming.  As a sponsor, our primary goal is to bring things to you that our clients or Seyfarth Shaw may be doing that would be relevant to your lives in law department management.

First, a few of our clients brought to our attention an interesting thought leadership program hosted by David Burkus.  The “New Year.  New Leader.” program features free online thought leadership lessons developed by author Daniel Pink and TED star Amy Cuddy, in addition to thirteen other fantastic thought leaders whose names you’ll recognize.  And don’t worry - the program has already started, but you are able to access any lessons you’ve missed.  Registration is quick and easy at

Second, project management is still a hot button.  As you may know, Seyfarth continues to lead the discussion around project management and lean six sigma -- using those techniques in delivering our legal services and working in-house with our clients.  As part of our work, we occasionally find tools that clients report using to help them manage projects.  Smartsheet is one of these tools. Clients report that it is easy and useful, working across platforms and among team members.  It’s free to try:  

Lastly, while you’re enjoying these resources, be sure to mark your calendar and tune in for the next Legal Quick Hit - “2016 is Here! 10 Things That Could Rock the In-House World.”  On February 10, Ken Grady, the Lean Law Evangelist for Seyfarth Shaw LLP, will explore the top 10 developments that will affect law departments in 2016.  You may be surprised! 

We look forward to 2016.  Be sure to attend the monthly meetings.

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ACC Mid-Year Meeting NYC
LDMC Programs at the Mid-Year Meeting: Two Must-Sees

The ACC kicks off its inaugural Mid-Year Meeting in the Big Apple on April 10-12. The focus will be on advanced topics discussed in three tracks: Contracting Skills, Corporate Governance and Financial Industry Compliance. Two programs in the Contracting Skills track are brought to you by our Committee and promise to be outstanding.

“Engineering Change in Your Contracting Process” is set for April 11th. Speakers include LDMC Program Co-Chair, Lucy Bassli, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft and Margo Lynn, Assistant General Counsel at Land’s End. Lucy led a highly successful session at the Annual Meeting on a related topic.

“Negotiation Casting Call: Learning Advanced Negotiation Techniques by Playing Your Part”, is scheduled for April 12th. This session’s imaginative format will involve all participants in playing a role in a simulated negotiation, with experienced in-house and outside counsel facilitating the process and analyzing the tactics. LDMC Publications Co-chair, Jennifer Nelson, will be one of the session leaders.

We hope to see you in New York!

Steven Mashal, Corporate Counsel, American Council on Exercise, Chair, LDMC; and

Stephen Roth, Vice President & General Counsel, Jewelry Television, Vice-Chair LDMC
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GC/CLO Resources

With cybersecurity and data protection being such hot issues, all CLOs should make sure to read ACC’s “The State of Cybersecurity Report.”  The key findings portion is a quick 14 page read, and will let you know what more than 1,000 other corporate counsel say about their cybersecurity experiences, roles and practices.  If you want to read the full report, you’ll learn more about industry and regional trends, common preventative tactics, lessons learned from those who experienced a breach (including how the breach occurred and who was affected), the impact of regulatory requirements, insurance decision making and coverage information, and managing risk through outside support such as forensic and outside counsel retainers and more.

If you have a Value Champion to nominate, the deadline is midnight on February 5.

If you have any rising stars you want to nominate for the Executive Leadership Institute, watch for an announcement next month when the nomination period opens. 

And finally, the CLO Roundtables are being formed for the midyear and annual meetings.  There will also be a series of Roundtables in different US cities so if you’re interested in learning more please contact the Director of CLO Services Justin Connor at or 202.677.4762. 

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions please reach out to me at

Kelly Slavitt, Vice President and General Counsel - North America & Food,Reckitt Benckiser LLC, LDMC GC/CLO Chair

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LDMC Membership Updates

2015 was a year of growth for the LDMC.  We entered the 2014 Annual Meeting in October with 6,079 members, and came out of the October 2015 Annual Meeting with 6,280, an increase of 201 members.  We take this as a sign that the LDMC continues to offer value and craft its offerings around the need of its members, and look to continue this trend in 2016..

Matthew J. Nolan 蓝慕天, Senior Counsel, Manager of Governance and Compliance, Dow Corning, Greater China – Membership Chair, LDMC
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Ready to Volunteer?

The Law Department Management Committee still has availability for members to volunteer, so if you wish to volunteer your services for any of the LDMC activities/events, please email or call Steven Mashal at phone: (858) 576-6544, email:
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LDMC Chair: Steven Mashal       

LDMC Secretary: Darren Dragovich                     

Editor-in-Chief: Jennifer F. Nelson, Esq.
Vice President and General Counsel, Maesa LLC
LDMC Publications Subcommittee Co-Chairperson


Jeff Brown, Esq.
Associate General Counsel, TELUS International
LDMC Publications Subcommittee Co-Chairperson

Jason M. Brocks, Esq.
Assistant General Counsel, Benecard

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