In a recent article in Bloomberg BNA: Big Law Business, Susie Lees, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Allstate Corporation, gets specific about how Allstate selects and retains outside law firms for the work its massive legal department can’t handle internally.

Lees’s comments about how Allstate works with outside counsel makes interesting and valuable reading, but I believe the message we need to take away from this interview relates to how necessary it is for us to listen to GCs, and not treat them like the enemy: we need to empathize, understand and then negotiate from there.

[Today] when I have [conversations about attorney fees] with business people, they talk about my budget. The more the law firms charge, the less I might have to pay my folks, or to do my training, or whatever it is that I want to spend in general. My business folks, whom I’m answerable to, are looking at this holistically. – Susie Lees

In other words, even a powerhouse like Susie Lees, sitting at the helm of the legal department of Fortune’s #89 company – with 650 inside lawyers – has to be sensitive to the inside business pressures.

Do you know what Lees’s pressures are? If you don’t, you don’t deserve to do her legal work. The same holds true for any client you hope to serve.

I welcome your feedback on this or any other matter either through the comments below, or directly via email.