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Podcast: Know the Business: Tips on Building Relationships with In-House Counsel with Amy Yeung, General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer for Lotame

Author: Berbay Marketing & PR | November 1, 2021

Episode 98

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Why Amy onboards new law firms with a day of learning, and why familiarity with the business is crucial for long-term relationships with law firms 
  • Why it is beneficial to have parallel relationships between the level of law firm associates and the level of in-house counsel
  • Why law firms that are passed over by in-house counsel in the first round shouldn’t give up on forging a relationship
  • How junior attorneys can build relationships with in-house counsel without overstepping boundaries
  • Why diversity and inclusion is more than just a buzzword

About Amy Yeung

Amy Yeung is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, for Lotame, the world’s leading unstacked data solutions company. Recognized as an expert in digital data and privacy, Yeung was previously Deputy General Counsel at Comscore, which she successfully helped guide through a corporate crisis. She also served as Vice President of Legal at Dataminr and Assistant General Counsel for ZeniMax. Yeung earned a J.D. from Duke University School of Law and a B.A. in political science from the University of Chicago.

Additional resources:

Amy Yeung’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-yeung-0518883/

Lotame

Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast

The relationship between law firms and in-house counsel is complex, but it boils down to one thing: how well each party understands the other. That’s a lesson Amy Yeung, General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Lotame, has learned all too well during her time as in-house counsel. She joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast to talk about how she selects the law firms she works with, how junior attorneys can prepare for partnership, and why diversity and inclusion isn’t just a fad. Read the episode transcript here.

Sharon: Welcome to the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. Today, my guest is Amy Yeung, General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Lotame Data Management. The Lotame Data Management platform is a data collection application that gathers and unifies audience data from a plethora of sources such as blogs and websites as well as offline information. Today, we’ll hear more about that as well as how Amy evaluates and selects outside counsel. Amy, welcome to the program.

Amy: Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.

Sharon: Thank you so much. It’s great for you to talk with us. Give us an overview of your career path. You’re quite accomplished.

Amy: You’ve very kind and generous, thank you. I went to law school, and from that, I clerked in the Delaware Court of Chancery under Vice-Chancellor Parsons, which was a phenomenal experience and gave me a chance to look at corporate law and corporate law litigation. After that, I joined the wonderful firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where I was in a very broad securities group that included regulatory litigation enforcement as well as some corporate work. It was from that point in time that I took, let’s call it, an early detour. 

These days it’s a little different, but at that time, going in-house was not expected, certainly not at those mid-level years. I spent nearly seven years at my first in-house counsel role. They were a publisher, and I helped them expand it for print and software across to a global platform. It was a phenomenal experience. I really enjoyed it. I think for all the lawyers and law firm individuals in the audience, it was a great way to get your chops and have an opportunity to work through a variety of issues, for me, squarely in the software and data space. During that time, I became a subject matter expert in data privacy and product counsel, which I mentioned. These days it has a name and phrase; back then, not so much. I also gained understanding of hardware, software, intellectual property and a lot of those issues.

It’s from that experience that I became general counsel for the then-unicorn in New York. There was another company that had already gone public, and this company, Dataminr, focused on social media and big data in the software and data space. In that regard, I helped them scale and easily pivot in significant ways. My work for Dataminr included things like getting certain tweets better geolocated and specific to subject matter that is an interest and for organizations like, say, the Orlando Pulse nightclub. 

At that point in time, when there was a shooting in a gay nightclub, it provided media opportunities, like there were eyeballs inside the club just because of the number of people that were tweeting about the situation indoors. It really has made and continues to make such an impact on how we think about tweets, how tweets can be used in the broader public policy and global arena. These days when we get news, there’s a reason why there are now tweets incorporated in stories about Pulse. Otherwise a journalist would have to go and search for them instead of tweets just being provided and shared by somebody. 

From there, I went to Comscore, which was going through a corporate crisis. Two public companies merged, and then weeks later, an SEC investigation was announced for corporate recognition. So, I was comprehensively redoing business development with clients and redoing data privacy in light of the impending GDPR requirements. They were going through a lot of financial and other considerations.

Where I am today is Lotame, which is still in the space which focuses on advertising technology, and in that regard, continues to do a lot of data collection. I continue to stay in software and data, but I’m particularly in this area. I help companies and organizations get to audiences and bridge the gap and encourage the sale of the products that we sell. 

Sharon: It seems like an amazing application and platform, to be able to gather all this data from different sources and build a picture of who you’re targeting or where they are.

Amy: That’s absolutely right. Certainly, many of the companies I’ve been involved with have a component of that. At ZeniMax, they started, frankly, in the digital age and did digital advertising when very few people were focused on that, not knowing, of course, that there would be a big pivot in the coming years. They do have a platform to be able to incorporate advertising data themselves. Dataminr had a slightly different use scenario, especially when it comes to where the true value is in the company, but being familiar with how one uses those platforms to derive those insights is very much fundamental to Comscore. 

What we want to focus on, which is to your point, Sharon, is really understanding who your audience is, trying to drill down and get that full picture. Also, as we all realize, we have a laptop for work; we have a different laptop for personal use; there’s a phone. What we do on each of these devices is very different, and it’s also very different from how we watch TV or use Roku. These days, as I know we all realize as marketers ourselves, are trying to get that singular picture, which is very complex. We’re not trying to bombard you across all the platforms, in most instances anyway. We’re trying to get a personal product directed to you when you’re using your personal device, as compared to a work-related product when you’re using a work-related device.

Sharon: It sounds like as you’ve been building your career, you’ve had to learn about marketing, or get more into marketing. How has that been for you, as somebody who didn’t study that in school? All lawyers have to be marketers, yes, but—

Amy: That’s absolutely right. You’re so on point. I’ll say one thing here is knowing what your core products are at the heart. I serve as strategic advisor to these companies. Of course, there are certain areas in the law, in data privacy, in intellectual property, that could put me in a much larger position or disproportionate position to be able to serve as a strategic advisor as the companies themselves pivot what they’re trying to sell. That’s certainly one of the key areas, but to your point, other things I didn’t study in school include the business of the business itself, as well as the marketing. I am grateful to have individuals who are generous with their time to help me understand what they do, which gives me the opportunity to think about how I can service them and service their needs. Also, frankly, I’m a consumer just like everybody else. There are lots of things I like buying. In that vein, perhaps different from some of the other areas of my practice, it is intuitively helpful to have those analogies, because I’m a consumer just like anybody and everybody else. Keeping my finger on the pulse of how marketing turns and what those initiatives are helps me round out the picture, which in turn helps me become the best strategic advisor I can be.

Sharon: I would imagine that when you’re evaluating outside counsel, or when a lawyer’s trying to get to know you, that demonstrating that understanding would be very important to you.

Amy: It’s essential for every company I work with. I will say that, especially when it comes to law firms, one of my expectations—and I know this is not typical, although perhaps it may not be far off the standard—is that I always expect our new law firms to onboard with a day of learning with us. I say that because I have been counseling disruptive companies across all life cycles, so many of these companies are going through a significant change. It’s not standard work, and I’m not looking for a standard law firm; I’m looking a partner in the long run. In order for you to best serve me, and for me to be able to best serve my clients, it means understanding what the business does, understanding where the asks are coming from in the big picture. It also relates to the level of risk, because in each of these companies there has been a different risk. There have been different short-term and long-term risks that we know and need to balance. That is the explanation to how there have been some wonderfully successful law firms I’ve worked with in the past. I think we all recognize and agree that the legal answer needs to be massaged in shape for the client, but it’s really difficult, I think, for the law firms and partners and teams to give unqualified advice if you don’t have familiarity with the types of choices and operational work the company is going through. Some of that is default. For a large, multinational public company, you can probably guess what that risk is going to be, or for a public company in a corporate turnaround. That probably gives you some ideas you can guess at, but there’s still a wide variety. The day of learning is very much an investment with both parties, both the partners and anticipated staff on my side, individuals and executive leadership—who also have busy days—to share in terms of understanding what everybody does. 

Sharon: When you select outside counsel, are you looking at it for your clients or for your company, or for both? Who are you choosing for? It sounds like you’re advising your clients as to who would be a good firm to talk to.

Amy: Yeah, there’s a little bit of that. Obviously, when I say client, I mean the people in the company I service. Some of it’s a little bit of both of those pockets. As general counsel, I’m looking at their whole company’s profile and what the risk is. There’s certainly a level of understanding what we can do on the legal side to make sure we’ve got a well-rounded team, which includes reaching out to outside counsel and drawing the line between what’s in and out based on experiences with what the company’s gone through and the current legal team. After that, selecting a law firm and understanding their expertise and niche is, perhaps to your quite astute point, Sharon, a little bit of magic as well as a science, in that you are looking for the right fit, the right team with the leader, what their fundamental goals and purposes are. That can significantly narrow or generally broaden the number of law firms that are in that pipeline. I will say for me, the best practice, both normatively as well as philosophically, is that I will ask for multiple RFPs from different law firms. I want to give everybody a shot. I also want to give many individuals an opportunity to get to know us, because even if this time it doesn’t work out, it still gives us exposure and a learning opportunity. I think fundamentally, that’s important.

Sharon: Have you ever gone back to a firm when you initially selected a different firm, but the other firm stuck in your mind? Something came up and you went back to them and said, “This would be great for you,” or “I’d like to work with you on this.”

Amy: Yeah, I think that goes along with the philosophical approach of a long-term partner. It doesn’t make sense, in my opinion, to spend that much time thinking about an isolated circumstance. I think there’s a lot to be learned. Frankly, I wouldn’t be doing an RFP if the team wouldn’t be learning something new. To your point, there are several times I can think of off the top of my mind. I might not have any doubt, but either we learn something new, or, frankly, it comes down to the way the firm continues to build and maintain their relationship. They’ve already given more reason to take a look at them a second time.

Sharon: How have they continued to build? How would you suggest somebody continue to build on that initial contact of presenting an RFP? How do they build and maintain that relationship and demonstrate that they would be the firm for you the next time around?

Amy: There are any number of ways a firm can do this. I’m thinking about discrete examples that can be useful. I think it’s fair to say we all get hundreds of emails a day, so adding a line to a newsletter, while it may be on point, doesn’t actually help me winnow down what’s useful. There are a number of partners, for example—and not even partners, associates—who will add another line or two as they forward, to say specifically, “Take a look at X, because I think X would be applicable.” By definition, if they catch my eye, it gives me the opportunity to examine a lending opportunity and say, “Yes, that was very much on point,” or “No, it wasn’t.” It’s a next step which in and of itself I see as a learning opportunity. 

There are events, for example. I know it is frequent that people want to send those along. It’s often useful for the contextualization, such as, “This event might be of use in particular. When we talked about X, I thought the panel at Y would be really useful to you.” Again, it’s an opportunity to learn more about us. It’s an opportunity for them to respond and think about somebody on the team, if not myself, to join. There are a number of conferences and events that law firms have and host. You can see where I’m going with this item. Knowledge about that for in-house counsel, especially when compared to my law firm experience, resources are far fewer. Being able to quantify that, especially in a discrete way for my team, is helpful. We’ve all got so many virtual panels right now, so having a virtual panel, a virtual conference alone, is not necessarily going to move the needle. But again, being tactful about it paves the way for that type of relationship, because I know you’re not going to inundate me; I know you’re already working hard to understand the business in different ways. That is a distinguishing factor, in my opinion, with a number of law firms and individuals who reach out. 

Sharon: I think it’s important for lawyers and marketers to hear the fact that you do consider firms you passed over the first time around. I’m sure a lot of lawyers say, “Well, that was a waste of time,” and put the RFP on the shelf and never look at it or think about you or your needs again, whereas it sounds like it would be worth it for them to build on what they’ve already invested.

Amy: I think that’s right. 

Sharon: You’ve been involved in several attorney organizations. Can you tell us about which ones, attorney or personal, that have been most beneficial? Maybe you’ve identified lawyers there at times because you’ve gotten to know them.

Amy: I’ll say as somebody who builds teams, I’m always on the lookout. When I think back to any of the organizations where I haven’t otherwise met someone connected with somebody or hired in some capacity—I’m not sure I can think of one where I haven’t had that situation. As we all know, talent comes in all shapes and forms, so it’s my role to keep my eyes open in that regard. To your first question, Sharon, I certainly had a wonderful and many years with the D.C. Bar and the ADA, both being elected in initial polls with the D.C. Bar as well as some of those roles overlapping with the American Bar Association. I found that organization to be and continues to be wonderful and a great source of broad legal networking and the like. It was great, especially for me in understanding contextually the variety of things that somebody, even in the business law section or another section, could still be involved in. With that said, since then, I’ve also been very active and involved in other groups, which might arguably be a little smaller in nature. That includes, for example, NAPABA and other voluntary bar organizations.

Sharon: NAPABA? I’m not familiar with that one. 

Amy: Sure. NAPABA is the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. It’s a great group of individuals. Ultimately, we are not only serving our leadership on the local level with NAPABA D.C., but also on the national level, culminating with my last role as the Chair of Diversity and Inclusion in that committee. I am also serving in leadership as the char elect for the Association of Corporate Counsel, ACC. It provides an opportunity for in-house counsel to come together and share their experiences in a way that, as some would say, avoids the law firm “sharks in water” situation and permits individuals to speak frankly about their experiences. I think the ACC, under this leadership, does a wonderful job of being able to balance that. We all realize it’s a full life cycle in terms of needs between companies as well as law firms and law organizations in order for all of us to be successful in our careers. That’s been a wonderful set of experiences with law. 

Sharon: You mentioned diversity and inclusion. Has that grown in importance? Have you ever experienced that a law firm has brought in a team to meet you, and they had their token Asian, let’s say, or their token ethnicity to prove diversity and inclusion? How has that been for you?

Amy: I have to say it’s been a bumpy road. I’d like to think the issue is much more prominent on its face, and in particular much deeper and richer conversations are happening. To your point, I do still have experiences where individuals will pull together a team and think that’s the right message to send to me, but ultimately that message is short-lived and doesn’t actually prove itself out in the way the work is done and the way in which the individuals themselves are being paid and compensated. Those are issues and concerns that I have always been of the mind to note. I would be surprised if there’s any in-house counsel in a position to hire where that isn’t a competitive factor. That’s the case, at least for me, in software data, because all of my companies and teams have been global in nature. The reason for that is because from my perspective, it is impossible for me in my role to be able provide the appropriate guidance to a company that has so many points of view. So, I need my teams, whether or not they’re inside the four walls of the company, to be able to provide the creative guidance and global perspective in order to advise the business. If they’re not able to do that, I’m not doing my job, and if I’m not doing my job, you know what needs to happen. 

I’ve had a lot of success in that. Maybe one can say, “Well, she’s in software; she’s in data and a lot of things.” I admit that things like pivots of a company, disruptive business ideas, these are all traits that can only encourage a diverse team to be able to come up with creative solutions. I also admit that, at least for a while there, this industry probably entertains larger, greater ideas in that scenario than perhaps a traditional company, but you can’t tell me, especially in the days of Covid, that there isn’t a company that isn’t otherwise struggling for better places broadly in our ecosystem. If I don’t have these few clients, I simply don’t do enough of a good job for my company. My team is encouraged to think outside of the box, in alignment with the legal requirements of what needs to happen. Where we end up ultimately is another thing, but I want to make sure my team is supportive of the company leads, and in order to do that, we need global views, whether or not that’s in data privacy, whether or not that’s in intellectual property. We need to be able to see and peer around the corner. The only way we are able to do that is when there are fresh perspectives and multiple perspectives, when we discuss and debate, and then ultimately align with the course of action that comes with the next steps. 

Sharon: Do you see things outside of your firm? Do you see things changing in the world of diversity and inclusion, things that are going to stick? Maybe people are saying, “Well, that’s the buzzword of today,” like Earth Day was the buzzword decades ago and then it popped up again. At least, that’s my interpretation.

Amy: Yeah, it’s a great question, Sharon, and I thank you for asking it, because it’s a very important topic. I mentioned earlier that the conversations these days are richer. By that, I not only mean total conversations and the transparency with which these conversations happen, but also in terms of the metrics that I and a number of other general counsel and chief legal officers expect. We anticipate a more fulsome picture, especially from law firms, in their data. I was just having a conversation last week with a global law firm. They had identified mutual stacks in terms of initial hiring and the like. We all know and recognize that we need to invite diversity of all sorts. It continues to be a work in progress, but is perhaps the easiest of all of the steps to achieve, to be able to then build that in your attention and create that pipeline is something I think all companies or organizations continue to struggle with. This is what I would expect to be the next steps in this dialogue. How has your firm retained diverse individuals moving up? How has your firm been able to elevate? I’ve worked with partners in law firms to be able to ensure that potential elevations are getting the substantive work that puts individuals in a position to be partner ready. We need that. That, to me, is a full cycle of success for all lawyers. That is the business model that I not only believe in, but I actually put the investment in. That is how this conversation is richer, but we need more people in the conversation, and we need more transparency with respect to how we can advance the profession overall.

Sharon: What would your advice be to emerging attorneys or those that want to rise up the ladder, who don’t have the sponsorship or patronage you’re talking about? I think it’s fabulous to be able to say to a partner, “This is a person we need to groom.” How would you suggest that lawyers pierce the corporate veil, in a sense, to get to you? That’s my vision of it.

Amy: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ll add to your good observations what I’ve described as a dialogue. It happens over the course of a few years, so it’s not just me who might say, “You’ve got an excellent attorney for these following reasons.” It’s a way for us to get that full cycle of improving the next generation of attorneys coming in, which is what I hope all juniors in our space want to do. With that said, there are a number of things a junior attorney can do to put themselves on the radar. I know from a law firm perspective, the one thing that is often said is do the best you can do. Always say yes, all of those good things that I don’t need to go over in our interview today. But certainly make a mark on the people for whom you work. 

These days, more junior attorneys are getting mentorship with their counterparts, which is amazing and certainly didn’t exist when I was on the law firm side or when we went to in-house counsel. I think there are more people on the in-house counsel side that create the opportunity for those parallels. I think that would be another thing I would tell junior attorneys to ask, which is to say—at least in my book, I make sure all of my attorneys start getting early exposure with law firm colleagues. It’s important not only to understand the cadence and the business model, but also to build upon the ways in which one can create a relationship. If I’m expecting you on my side, that’s an opportunity attorneys can ask for on the other side, which is to say, “Look, I’m not going to bill for my time, but it goes without saying there cannot always be a fly on the wall. I’d love to hear that early exposure about the way in which you, senior counsel or partner, are able to manage the client. Help me understand the political dynamic on this case. What’s the risk profile?” Being curious and thoughtful about the group picture is something that a decade ago, I don’t know that law firms were necessarily thinking about in terms of giving the right answer. That’s a terrible generalization. I don’t mean it to be quite literal, but what I mean to say is that these days, there are so many more opportunities. It’s so much better for senior attorneys to bring in their junior attorneys to have that experience and start giving attorneys earlier opportunities for that exposure to be thinking about as they rise. I’m pretty positive that a lot of junior law firm attorneys I speak with or mentor are looking for that. It’s a huge benefit to them in so many different ways. 

Sharon: I could see how it would be a tremendous benefit in having the people within the firm know who you are and what you can do, but I’m saying, “Hey, I don’t want to wait around for that,” or “Yes, I do that, but I want to get to know you better,” or “I want you to see what I’m learning here.” Basically, how do I get to you without having to wait for the partner to make the introduction or do whatever he or she has to do to get me to you? What’s the best way to do that? Speak at conferences? Publish? What are you looking at? 

Amy: That’s a really great question. Let me see if I can’t break it down, because you raise what is, at the essence, a complication of human dynamics. I don’t mean that to be so philosophical, but I think that’s true, because there’s no one way that’s going to catch my eye or catch somebody’s eye. When you accurately identify, for example, writing an article, that is bound to catch somebody’s eye. I don’t know if it’s going to catch my eye or somebody else’s, but you got to put yourself out there. That’s the number one rule in marketing, they say. You can’t get the business unless you’re at least trying to do that. There is some nuance in the other suggestions I raised, which is to say I’m not sure. I wouldn’t necessary be advocating for a junior attorney who’s on an account to directly reach out to the general counsel without having connected with the relationship partner.

Sharon: I understand, but what if the relationship partner—if they don’t feel threatened, let’s say—says to the junior attorney, “You’ve got to figure out how we’re going to build this relationship with Amy. We have our foot in the door. Where do we go from here? I’m too busy to think about it. You come up with a plan.” What would you say? What would your advice be? You’ve given us ideas, but how would you help advise him to expand the relationship?

Amy: For a junior attorney?

Sharon: To maybe go to the relationship partner or one of the partners and say, “Hey, I have Amy’s ear. Let’s do something with it.”

Amy: Yeah, it’s a great question. I would hope that all junior attorneys are thinking about how the state of relationship is more than just doing the work and thinking about the bigger picture. Maybe one way I would respond to this—again, this really does boil down to human relations—is that if this individual is involved in other types of organizations, such as the voluntary bar, it’s a good opportunity. To answer your question, Sharon, which I think gets to the heart of human dynamics, I would hope that every junior attorney is thinking more broadly than just, “Let me do the work that’s being asked of me,” and they are learning more about the client; they’re thinking about the business relationship and, in particular for those who want to help develop the business, are taking all of the experiences they’re learning from in each of their client matters and understanding where the core of that relationship is. That relationship can change quite drastically, whether it’s a core corporate client of the law firm versus somebody who’s smaller. 

To answer your question more specifically how a junior attorney might be able to help expand, I think this is also where things like bar associations or just your knowledge on the street might be helpful. There might be something that comes in over email that they can forward on to the partner to say, “Hey, the law firm is doing this, and I think it would be great to forward for X client. I’m happy to do it unless you prefer to do it.” This is also where having parallel relationships between the level of the law firm associate and the level of in-house counsel can be helpful, because now you’re not having to go up and down the ladder, so to speak, but rather you can just forward that on to the mid-level, and it’s probably something you are both interested in, in terms of expertise or takeaways. Another way to do it is if you are learning about something yourself, bullet point three to five takeaways and share them with the partner for the panel. The recording might be of interest to the associates you’re generally working with at that company, or it could be something you send directly to your midlevel. Again, if it’s something new you’ve learned, I suspect it might be something your counterpart in the company might also be interested in, or at least it’s an opportunity for you guys to be able to synch on knowledge.

Sharon: I think that’s wise. What you said is almost the essence of this whole conversation. First of all, I want to make it clear: I’m not advocating for anybody to go jump over their senior professional, their partner, whoever, even though I’ve seen that. The relationship doesn’t end up very well. That’s not what I’m advocating for. I do think what you’re talking about is level-to-level, in a sense that the rising professional, the rising outside in private practice, if they are building that relationship with somebody around the same level in-house, how that could work in the long run very well, if one assumes they are providing value. Maybe I’m naïve, but some of the things you’re talking about, I don’t have to bring them up because—doesn’t everybody say, “O.K., the bottom line is you’ve got to do good work, and you got to let everybody else know you’re doing that good work”? I guess I skip over that because, to me, it’s a given. Maybe it isn’t.

Amy: No, I wish it were a given. It wasn’t in my life. I’m still struggling with that. I think studies show, actually, that is not a given with cultural considerations. Some assume that the work speaks for itself, so it is a plea to them to acknowledge, in a tactful way, what you’re doing and elevate that. That’s an art, and we all have to practice it. To your point, I’d love to think it’s a given, but I don’t think it is. Doing good work is also contextualized. I’ve said for many years, for myself as well as from others when listening to them identify, that you have to do the best work you can do, but what exactly does that mean? I think in this day and age, what it means to do good work is to understand what your fundamental client needs are, and that oftentimes isn’t information you necessarily get from the first round. You have to be proactive about understanding that. That goes not just for the junior attorneys, but also for the relationship partners and the individuals who are working on the matters.

Sharon: I think that’s very sound advice, sound thoughts. We could have a whole conversation about what doing good work is.

Amy: We certainly could.

Sharon: Amy, thank you so much for being here today.

Amy: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the invitation, Sharon.

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