VIDEO: Lessons Learned From 3M Culling Law Firms

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By Yin Wilczek

General counsel support is crucial for corporate legal departments that are trying to decrease the number of law firms they work with, 3M Co.’s managing counsel said.

The most important step is making sure the in-house team is “aligned, starting with the general counsel,” said Joseph Otterstetter, who leads his company’s ongoing convergence efforts. “There will be resistance, I promise, and so if the general counsel isn’t supportive, it’s best not to even start, frankly.”

3M is now in the third stage of its overall convergence work, Otterstetter told Bloomberg BNA June 6 on the sidelines of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Legal Operations Conference in Chicago.

Watch Otterstetter’s interview here

Major Challenges

The St. Paul, Minn.-based manufacturer kicked off its convergence in 2013, when it cut the 300 or so firms it worked with in the U.S. to about 35 to 36 firms, said Otterstetter, who also is associate general counsel of 3M. Last year, the company re-assessed the major portfolios into which it divides its legal work, he said.

So far, the major challenges include managing the changes arising from working with fewer, and new, firms, Otterstetter said. There also are administrative issues, such as ensuring that outside counsel get feedback.

For other companies that are undertaking the effort, Otterstetter said they must be clear on what they are trying to accomplish. For 3M, it’s about managing costs, forging the kinds of relationships it wants, and driving other objectives, such as diversity inclusion and pro bono commitment, he said. “Those were factors that we considered in our selection process.”

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Jenkins at

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