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In-House Lawyers to the Rescue

Cc200806_0001 An underdog came out on top in Corporate Counsel magazine's selection of best legal department of 2008. The in-house team at Qwest Communications won for "a classic job of making lemonade when they were dealt lemons," writes editor Anthony Paonita. The lemons came in the form of a multibillion-dollar accounting scandal that left angry investors suing to recoup more than $40 billion. As reporter Amy Miller writes, GC Richard Baer and his team took primary responsibility for handling the difficult negotiations with investors.

His recipe for making lemonade: humanize the company. "It was very important that plaintiffs lawyers understood that the company is made up of people, good people," Baer told reporter Miller.

The strategy worked. Qwest settled the suit a year later for $400 million, a mere 1 percent of the original claim. Then Qwest's lawyers took a deep breath. Investors who had opted out of the settlement filed additional lawsuits alleging nearly $2 billion in damages. So Baer and his most experienced litigator, Stefan Stein, crisscrossed the country last summer to negotiate. Last fall, all the remaining suits were settled for about $410 million.

Qwest's current CEO, Edward Mueller, describes it as some of the best legal work he has ever seen. And that is why the magazine chose Baer and his team for this honor. In fact, says editor Paonita, the Qwest lawyers made the choice easy. "[A]fter we met to evaluate and discuss their choices, a strange thing happened," he writes. "After disagreeing on almost everything else, we came to a rare accord on the winner."

See also: Next Best Legal Department: The Finalists.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 21, 2008 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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