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Once your department has dieted, it’s important to keep the weight off

An interview of Jerry Okarma, General Counsel of Johnson Controls, quotes him on recent efforts to reduce costs “including making absolutely sure that the investment in legal support needs to be made, and made now. Costs and expenses that can be delayed or deferred have been, and we’re much more cognizant of assigning the right level of resource to the task at hand, whether that be an in-house our outside attorney.”

Okarma continues to make an important, related point, one that looks to a future when cost control becomes less exigent.

“The challenge is to make these changes permanent, so we impact the spend into the future, and are not tempted to revert back to the way we did things before the recession.” The quote, from Law360, May 4, 2010 reminds us that costs, like pounds, creep back up. With outside counsel, for example, the price of feedom is eternal vigilance. Beyond that atrocious pun, you can take at least four steps to keep the belt tight:

Create policies, which are a form of public commitment;
Constantly remind people, which is the cheerleader role of the general counsel;
Hold yourself to benchmarks, which puts cost reduction in quantitative terms; and
Assign individual lawyers to be responsible, which creates personal accountability.