Stephen Teplin has been in-house counsel at FIS, a global provider of financial technology solutions, since 2008. Before that, Stephen was in private practice at two civil litigation firms in Florida for nine years, where he concentrated his practice in banking litigation.
Amy Drushal (AD): What is the biggest difference between being in-house counsel and being in private practice?
Stephen Teplin (ST): The varied and diverse nature of the matters is the biggest difference between being in private practice. Working in an incredibly dynamic environment means that in-house counsel must also be committed to change, novel paths to solutions and new challenges.
AD: What about the handling of legal matters by outside counsel gives you the most headaches, concern, or dissatisfaction?
ST: The only times I am dissatisfied are when I have to babysit outside counsel and be the individual that follows up, asks for updates and initiates correspondence. if I am sitting and wondering what is going on in one of my matters, I feel that outside counsel is not doing an adequate job of communicating with me.
AD: What are the things outside counsel does that make your job easier?
ST: My job is always easier when outside counsel provides me with succinct summaries that can be read and understood by not only legal counsel but also non-legal stakeholders.
AD: What is the highest value activity that outside counsel brings to you?
ST: Thoughtful discourse and analysis regarding outside counsel’s advice over any issue- whether it is on a telephone conference or in an email, it is always most useful to understand the thought process behind the recommendation being given by counsel.
AD: What is the lowest?
ST: Simply forwarding documents and information without active review or considered thought.
AD: What do you expect/want from outside counsel with respect to innovation, collaboration, and transparency?
ST: With respect to innovation, I respect outside counsel who are aware of and keep current with advancing technologies in our field. I also like learning from outside counsel—being in-house, there are limited resources that are dedicated to continuing education. I rely on hiring folks that are smarter than me. Regarding collaboration, I like working with outside counsel who are both knowledgeable in their area of expertise and receptive to other ideas. Lastly, transparency will serve as the basis for trust with outside counsel. Is she or he upfront and honest? That will lead to a mutually respectful relationship.
AD: What does the legal profession need to do to improve opportunities for diverse lawyers?
ST: I believe it starts with broadening opportunities for folks to a) get into law school; b) offer meaningful internships, and c) have true mentoring programs that value different perspectives.
About the Author
Amy L. Drushal is a shareholder with Trenam Law in Tampa, FL, and is associate editor of Law Practice Today. She can be reached at 813.227.7463 or ADrushal@trenam.com.