Journalists’ Journal: Al Driver (Editor, Metropolitan Corporate Counsel)

by Tom Mariam on September 18, 2014



Al Driver, along with his wife, Martha, founded the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel more than 20 years ago, coinciding with the time when marketing and visibility took hold in the legal industry. Al discusses with Tom Mariam the benefits of thought leadership for lawyers and how his publication has evolved and the changes it and the legal profession have experienced over the past two decades.

How does the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel (MCC) differ from other legal industry periodicals?

MCC, unlike many legal publications, focuses primarily on content written by outside lawyers. Every issue is packed with many articles so that most of our corporate counsel readers will find at least a few articles of immediate interest. This unfiltered approach provides an opportunity for law firm lawyers and legal service providers to share their expertise directly with its corporate counsel readers.

Why is it important for outside counsel and legal service providers to provide thought leadership and share it with other lawyers?

For corporate counsel, their working lives are a continuing learning experience. Law firms and legal service providers that help them keep up-to-date on developments in the legal field are much appreciated. This sensitized us to the need for a national newspaper to make information from leading law firms

and service providers available to corporate counsel across the country. It also enhances the credentials of the firms and the attorneys/interviewees.

Why should law firms pay to be published when there are many free opportunities available to them?

MCC provides law firm marketers with the opportunity to showcase the quality work of their lawyers in a publication reaching a broad readership of corporate counsel. The time, effort, and cost of finding free opportunities to reach virtually all corporate counsel in ways that get their attention is likely to far exceed our price for publication. Because we do interviews at no additional cost, lawyers who cannot take the time to write an article can be interviewed on their specific area of the law.

Are there opportunities for lawyers to contribute to MCC without paying?

Yes. We interview lawyers who are leaders of many legal organizations such as ACC, State/Local/National Bar Associations, etc. These attorneys do not pay.

What are the hottest topics and areas of the law that lawyers want to write about – and read about. How has that changed over the years?

The hot topics have changed and keep changing. Take technology, Dodd Frank, compliance issues, mediation and dispute resolution, alternative fee agreements, and legal project management; not to mention how diversity and its definition have expanded. Right now e-technology including cybersecurity and inversions are topics we will feature in our September issue. Our readers also appreciate works that cover developments in many established practice areas.

How has the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel evolved over the years?

In looking at our first issue dated September 1993, I see little change over our 21 year history in the quality of the content. The number of pages has grown from 28 originally to 64 in our July-August 2014 issue, our print circulation is National and Canada, and we now have a very active website, a digital edition, and the MCC Review, a weekly e-newsletter. Our website, among other things, enables corporate counsel to find an outside lawyer who may be up-to-speed on an issue he/she may face.

What has the shift to digital platforms from hard copy meant for the MCC? Will there be a day when you will only produce digital copy? If so, how far away is that day?

I am convinced that print is best suited to getting readers’ attention to substantive content that they might not take the time to search for or read on a device – but we do have a digital edition and weekly e-newsletter plus a great search engine on our website that enables viewers to access any work that we have published since January 2004.

Why do you walk through rain or snow to pick up your daily paper – when you could turn on your laptop and look at its website?

How have legal marketing and communications changed since the time MCC was founded?

There were very few legal marketers 21 years ago. Today’s legal marketing and communications professionals are very sophisticated. Back then, if a law firm had a legal department it was mostly administrative. There was no such thing as a CMO.

At a time when so many changes are occurring in the legal landscape and so many new apps and technologies are becoming available on an almost daily basis, law firm marketers are tasked with keeping up-to-date. I always come away from recent meetings of NYLMA with great new ideas that we try to implement. The programming has become more substantive and attendance has vastly increased. We are pleased that Amy Lemel and Carolyn Sandano who have contributed so much to MCC are among the leaders of NYLMA.

What is your professional background?

I started practicing law in New York with a select law firm and became active on committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. That experience taught me the importance of learning about legal issues from the other members of those committees.

After I joined the legal department of JC Penney, the New York City Bar set up industry committees for inside counsel. Like MCC, these committees gave corporate counsel an opportunity to get insights from outside lawyers about issues that concerned them. I became a senior vice president and general counsel of JC Penney and attribute my successes in that role to the quality of advice given by its outside counsel.

What would you like us to know about you aside from being a journalist?

Although we don’t have much time to do so, my wife Martha and I love to travel. We also enjoy family time with our two daughters and their families. One of our daughters is a medieval scholar/professor and our other daughter is a film-maker. We are avid tennis fans; enjoy opera, theater and classical music with friends, and reading the local and foreign press.

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