Lynn C. Outwater is the managing partner of Jackson Lewis LLP’s Pittsburgh office and is involved with management of the firm’s Cleveland and Cincinnati offices. Outwater frequently lectures on labor and employment law topics and is a nationally sought after expert on workplace law.
Q. Have businesses used their law firms more or less in the last two years?
In 2009, you saw a lot of businesses not calling upon law firms for preventative practices, but obviously getting hit more with litigation. In 2010, you saw a return to, obviously, not only clients calling upon the law firm when they’re sued but more employers focusing on, ‘What can I do to avoid being sued, and I’m willing to invest in prevention.’
Q. How often should business owners and executives meet with their law firm?
Obviously anytime they have a legal issue or a concern, whether it’s terminating somebody or what’s appropriate in terms of hiring. But in the event there is no activity and nothing for them to be concerned with, I think at least annually at a minimum.
The lawyers should meet with the business owners and talk about what has changed, what do they see coming up on their horizon in the future, what is new in their business plan, what kind of management changes have they seen, what kind of employee changes have they seen, are they contemplating any acquisitions or spin-offs or mergers? It’s very important for the law firm to be in tune with the goals of the business owners and the executives. You can’t do that if you don’t know what they are.
Q. How should businesses prepare for 2011?
I think we’ll see, in the last two years of the Obama administration and [with] the change in Congress, a lot of changes in workplace law, as we have in the first two years. It’s important for business owners and executives to get up to speed on what has already happened and what can be anticipated in this area and to train not only themselves but their executives on what changes in behavior and business practices, policies and procedures are necessary.