In this installment of The In-House Advisor, we interview Mark Bowers, Division Counsel and Senior Director at Samsung Pay, Inc., Samsung Pay is a mobile payment and digital wallet service that enables users to make payments using Samsung phones and other mobile devices. Mark’s role involves overseeing all of Samsung Pay’s legal needs, including contracts, compliance, litigation, HR support, real estate, management of the IP portfolio, marketing, product development, among other things.
The In-House Advisor: The role of in-house counsel has changed a lot over the years. How do you see that role changing going forward and how can today’s in-house counsel prepare for those changes?
Mark Bowers: The more things change; the more things stay the same. While underlying technology and methods of communication have changed, the role of in-house counsel has largely remained the same. We are here to provide cost-effective and timely legal support while mitigating the overall risk profile for the company.
IHA: While in-house counsel routinely save their companies money, Legal Departments generally are viewed as cost centers that add nothing to the bottom line. How can in-house counsel get across to the business people the value that in-house lawyers add to the company?
MB: Communicate, celebrate and document your success.
- Did you negotiate a large revenue producing deal for the company or settle a material piece of litigation? Let it be known.
- Has a new patent or trademark been registered? Send an email announcing the registration and congratulating the inventors. In that email, add a note about how long it took to obtain, obstacles that were overcome and next steps (e.g., renewal).
- While it is important to meet with executive management on a semi-recurring basis and keep them apprised of the major initiatives that you are working, it is also smart to make them generally aware of the less material items. For every high-profile deal, there are many more less exciting (read “non-revenue producing”) projects that keep us busy, e.g., analyzing the regulatory compliance of a new service offering, lease renewal, press releases, sales presentation reviews, confidentiality agreements, U/X guidance, etc. While it is not necessary to call out each item, providing a high-level summary will help the powers that be understand that you are more than a cost center.
- Keep a diary of matters that you have worked on throughout the year. When it comes time to write your review, this will be a useful resource.
IHA: What should in-house attorneys not say or do to try to show their value?
MB: Do not direct your clients to speak to outside counsel. In fact, act is if outside counsel does not exist. Also, do not get academic in negotiations, especially when the client is trying to hit its quarterly numbers. Clients do not care if you know how to draft the best Force Majeure clause ever written. They will care if you stall a deal over it.
IHA: You have been an in-house attorney for over 15 years. How have you been able to thrive in that role and what advice do you have for other in-house counsel so that they, likewise, can succeed?
MB: Be proactive, not reactive. Ask questions. Keep an open door.
- Don’t be afraid to take chances. For example, at my previous employer I agreed to a three year secondment to the UK to support one of the company’s lines of business. This was not only a wonderful professional experience but also an exciting opportunity for my family.
- Show your value by doing more than just negotiating contracts – conduct trainings, lunch and learns, etc. Hire smart and talented support, whether that means other lawyers or support staff.
- Communication is also key. Don’t let your Legal Dept. turn into a black hole where requests are lost. Respond to requests, set deadlines and provide an update if you are going to miss those deadlines.
- Above all, don’t sweat the small stuff and maintain a sense of humor.
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