Strategic Placement – The Record Reporter
By Chris L. Gilfillan
He calls it “riding shotgun.”
While in law school, David French worked for real-estate investment company Lyle Anderson monitoring the legal spend with firms like Fennemore Craig, P.C., and DLA Piper LLP. He’d communicate to the company what the lawyers were doing and because Lyle Anderson’s business frequently involved high-end golf course development, he was able to meet some of the legal leaders in Arizona.
“I think they were happy to have someone along so that they also knew that their client was well aware of everything that they were doing,” he said.
In that effort he also was able to help the firms and companies cooperate on priorities and spending.
“The executive team wanted to know what was going on in our legal cases,” French said. “They didn’t necessarily care about legal precedent and case law and those kinds of things. They just wanted to know where are we? How much money have we spent? And are we going to win or lose?”
Now he takes that experience in-house with his own legal placement firm D. French Advisors LLC, where he networks with private firm lawyers and in-house counsel.
The main distinguisher for French is in the way they approach placement.
“What we want to do is be in more of a consulting role [and be seen as] more of an extension of the law firm’s internal infrastructure, although we are an outside consultant,” he said. “Most importantly [we wanted to understand] the culture of the law firm and how they are wanting to grow strategically.”
Backing French are former Fennemore Craig partners Phil Edlund and Phil Schneider, with Bill Jury, who retired from Gallagher & Kennedy in 2010. Between them they have more than 90 years practicing in Arizona, and French said they will continue to advise the company while remaining focused on the Copper State.
“That’s who we are,” French said. “That’s what the four of us are all about.”
And, he said, that while national firms expand their presence in Phoenix, like Dickinson Wright/Mariscal Weeks’ combination in January 2013, his company will keep our legal community strong.”
“We all are very much invested in this community and want to see it continue to grow strategically and in the right way,” he said.
French comes to the post after serving as the director of acquisitions for real estate developer Orsett. And whether building out an entire practice group or helping to fill associates positions because of new litigation, French said his approach to each firm differs depending on need.
“We fancy ourselves almost as investment banking for the legal community,” he said.
That means he focuses solely on firms and companies in Arizona and only for lawyer placement.
“Instead of casting out a national search for an assistant general counsel, they could be right here. And we have plenty of talented law professionals that could fill the bill,” he said.