Wednesday, 12 December 2018 11:43

‘Law firms must empathise with our needs and act as our allies’

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Total Systems Services head of legal Sergio López Fernández says it is vital that external legal services providers perform tasks in the timeframe set by the company

 The process used by Total System Services (TSYS) – a data processing and print and digital services provider – to select external law firms is “very simple,” claims Sergio López Fernández, the company’s head of legal. “First we hold a personal interview in my offices, in which the law firms make a presentation about their services, and then we visit the law firms’ offices and we request references from current clients, and we evaluate the cost of their services,” he explains. “This does not mean we choose the lawyers that provide the cheapest services, as we also make an evaluation of their experience and their references.”

A firm’s prestige is also an important factor in the decision, according to López Fernandez. “Above all, law firms partners must be affiliated to one of the three most important bar associations in Mexico, which are the Barra Mexicana Colegio de Abogados, the Asociación Nacional de Abogados de Empresa, and the Ilustre y Nacional Colegio de Abogados de México.” López Fernandez says TSYS, which is based in Toluca, the capital city of Mexico state, uses external law firms for highly specialised cases concerning tax law, intellectual property and financial law. He adds that the company has a “magnificent business relationship” with Mexico City-based law firm Ponce Kuri, which, he says, is innovative and well-versed in intellectual property and data protection issues.

‘Practical and useful’
One of the biggest challenges TSYS has faced involved ensuring that the company’s employees were, twice each year, given training related to the latest developments in data protection. “When I began working at TSYS I asked the external law firm that counseled us on data protection, Ponce Kuri, to carry out due diligence and create a profile of how we were doing in terms of our internal implementation of policies and procedures regarding data protection,” López Fernandez explains. “They informed me that, beyond the implementation of external and internal policies, our personnel also had to be trained in data protection half-yearly – that was a significant challenge for our in-house legal team, because we had to train 600 employees.” López Fernandez continues: “Almost five years later, we now give two training courses to almost 600 employees, which has been a professional and academic challenge because it implied much preparation as the majority of our employees are not lawyers – I had to ensure that the message I was communicating was practical and useful for them.”

How to add value
López Fernández says that the main advantage of using an external law firm is that it “accelerates specialised issues, putting them in the hands of professionals, which allows them to dedicate their full time to studying the issues at hand”. He adds that there are many other advantages in using external firms and hiring lawyers with significant expertise in particular fields. “External law firms add value with their specialised services, and their understanding of our business model.”

However, according to López Fernández, one of the most important consideration for external law firms is ensuring that they “empathise with our needs, and that they have the response time that we demand – beyond being our external lawyers, we must see them as legal allies”. He adds that one of the factors that would deter TSYS from hiring a particular firm would be one of the partners having a poor reputation. With regard to the issue of using a law firm in a different jurisdiction, López Fernández says the company always seeks to use firms that are recommended by one of the law firms TSYS already uses.

The in-house team’s day-to-day work generally concerns matters related to tax, intellectual property and financial law, says López Fernández. In terms of new legislation affecting everyday work, he says that, as many of the company’s suppliers are in the US, his team needs to be more and more specialised in the interpretation and application of US legislation. López Fernández adds: “The business world is changing constantly and, as an in-house lawyer, I seek immediate legal answers that allow the company that I represent to continue to do business.”

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