GC Forum – Reginald Rasch (Rakuten Marketing)

by Amy Lemel on January 26, 2016

Rasch Reginald 2016Reginald Rasch serves as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Rakuten Marketing, a global marketing firm with nine offices worldwide. Reggie is also the Immediate Past President of the Greater New York chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel and a member of its board of directors. 

Reggie shares with us his insights from his own vantage point at Rakuten Marketing as well as from his experience with ACC and its member corporate companies about how law firms and legal service providers can be of most value to their corporate clients.                                                        

How have you seen the role of the General Counsel change in the last few years?

From my perspective, there has been a greater emphasis on managing the law department as a business, with pressure to lower expenses, including outside counsel fees, and implement technology and processes to improve productivity.   Although our business has grown fairly rapidly over the past several years, we have been able to keep the trajectory of our costs under control by implementing a monthly accrual process to accurately forecast expenses, which ultimately helps us to keep our costs in line with our budget.

We have also taken advantage of technology to scale our contract management function and speed the process of responding to routine contract requests.  Last, but certainly not least, we have, with the help of our technology operations team, implemented a legal ticketing system to help us keep track of legal requests and track metrics to help us improve the overall quality of our service to internal clients.

As a GC, what two or three issues keep you and your member GCs up at night?  And how can your law firms help?

Two issues of concern for me are patent claims and managing cybersecurity issues, including data breach preparedness.  Our business provides advertising technology services to customers so protecting data assets is of utmost concern for the business and our customers.

Outside counsel plays a pivotal role in helping us formulate measures to lessen the likelihood that we will be sued for patent infringement.  When issues arise, having skilled and competent outside counsel that truly understands the patent litigation landscape, including knowing the plaintiffs, the court process and even the judges is absolutely critical to successfully resolving a claim.

What do ACC member GCs have in common?

ACC member CGs are united in their recognition of the value that ACC provides to its members, including the provision of resource materials, programming offered locally and nationally, and access to a strong network of outside counsel.  I also believe ACC members are united in their desire to provide value to their respective organizations through the provision of high quality legal services, which of course extends to the use of outside counsel.

How have you addressed concerns of C-Suite or the Board regarding the level of outside legal fees?

We have addressed concerns about legal fees by building a strong process for the selection of outside counsel.  Cost alone does not drive the selection of outside counsel, although it is indeed important.   We will evaluate a number of different firms for a given project and consider factors such as expertise, responsiveness, efficiency, cost and staffing.   Once we hire a firm, we try to set expectations for the work product up front by communicating as frequently as possible about the overall business objective.

Finally, we are transparent with regard to our expectation concerning fees.  The motto is “no surprises.”  If there are no surprises from outside counsel then the Legal Department can appropriately set expectations with internal business clients.  It seems obvious, but without proper communication, expectations can be easily misunderstood.

How do you like to receive content and what type of content do you believe is most in demand from law firms?

I find email newsletters and law firm blog posts very useful.  Every Monday, I allocate time to go through a list of newsletters, blog posts, daily and weekly publications and online industry material to get the latest legal and business news impacting our business and the marketplace generally. For me, digital content is probably the most efficient way to keep up to date.

What is most important when retaining a law firm for a new engagement (or retention for that matter)?

Clear expectations of how the work will be managed and the overall cost.  Again, surprises are not welcomed.  Additionally, frequent communication from the firm is key, particularly when we are establishing a new relationship.

You have had a lot of experience in M&A and Cybersecurity. Do you have a story that you would like to share about working with opposing counsel?

By and large, my interactions with outside counsel on M&A transactions have been positive.  Of course, when you get a bunch of really smart lawyers in the room or on the phone, reasonable minds can and do differ on salient points and that inevitably leads to spirited negotiations.  But, in general, most of my dealings on the M&A side have been productive.   M&A counsel tend to be fairly sophisticated lawyers with lots of experience negotiating transactions.   Negotiating commercial agreements is a completely different story however.

How can law firms and legal service providers work best with your firm?

The best way to work with our company is to:

  • Understand the company’s business, including the organizational structure and how decisions are made.
  • Communicate frequently, including sharing updates about legal developments impacting our industry and business.
  • Offer competitive rates.
  • Create efficiency to help reduce costs (i.e., using experienced attorneys for complex matters and providing in-house lawyers with resources to manage routine matters).
  • Provide estimates for projects and stick to that estimate.

How have legal marketing and communications changed since you entered the legal profession?

The shift from printed material to digital communications has drastically changed legal marketing.  Law firms can now use technology to deliver timely, relevant marketing messages to targeted audiences, which not only benefits the law firm, but also helps the consumer of legal services identify the right service offering.  In spite of the changes in legal marketing spurred by the growth of digital communications and the internet, one thing remains constant.  Face-to-face networking and relationship building is still one of the most effective marketing tools in a law firm’s arsenal.

How much attention to you pay to rankings of lawyers and law firms, as well as awards and other honors?

Little to none. I may look at law firms that have credentials in a particular practice.

Do you look at firms’ or lawyer’s websites when considering a hire?

Of course, and I also use LinkedIn as a resource. There is a wealth of information on the law firm websites about their practice areas and lawyers.  Many firms offer substantive content and that information is useful in learning more about the firm’s strengths.    There have been instances where a law firm article has led me to reach out the author and consider the firm for a possible engagement.

Before joining Rakuten Marketing as GC, you held positions with Linkshare as well as law firms.  Tell us about your experience.

I worked as a corporate associate on a variety of transactional matters ranging from mergers and acquisitions to complex securitization transactions.  I also had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of commercial agreements, which helped me develop strong contract drafting and negotiating skills.  Looking back, I would have to say that my law firm experience indeed positioned me for success when I transitioned to my first in-house job.

What would you like us to know about you personally?

I am huge into sports – basketball and endurance athletics in particular.  I enjoy racing my bicycle in local club races and trail running and still consider myself a pretty decent basketball player.  I have a wonderful family; two boys, ages 3 and 7 and a great and supportive wife.  I love to read and I am currently reading Big Sea, an Autobiography by Langston Hughes; 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done and I am still flipping pages in Don Quixote, the Edith Grossman edition.   I will finish it one of these days.

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