Legal Departments Of The Year: The Hartford's Rigorous Analysis Process Helps Avoid Litigation
Heavner said the in-depth analysis helps determine the type of outside counsel needed. If it's a case involving a lot of briefing of legal issues, the legal department looks for someone well-known for research and writing. If they expect a trial, The Hartford looks to bring in a savvy litigator.
"We think of ourselves as the senior partner on the case, developing strategy and tactics," said Heavner. "We're heavily managing the caseload from in-house. We find that to be both an effective means to litigate, because we know so much more about our issues and what's come up before than most of our outside lawyers."
Besides litigation, Kreczko credited two other efforts he believed were crucial to earning the Management of In-House Counsel award.
First, he said, last year the company announced it would put up for sale four of its businesses so that it could focus on its core property/casualty insurance, group benefits, and mutual funds franchises. Kreczko said the public announcement drew some criticism by those who predicted it would reduce the company's negotiating leverage during the sales process.
"Not the case," said Kreczko, noting that the divestitures took just nine months to accomplish.
In the end, The Hartford sold its Individual Life Insurance division to Prudential Financial; its Retirement Plans Group to Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company; its Woodbury Financial Services to a subsidiary of AIG: and its Individual Annuity new-business capabilities to Forethought Financial Group.
Kreczko, who noted the company does not have a permanent mergers unit in the legal department, said in-house counsel nevertheless did a tremendous job managing the negotiations.
Also, Kreczko said the company has embraced social media in its business strategies. As such, the company's legal department assists the businesses in its appropriate uses.
"We've developed a playbook… so the businesses can use [social media] to promote its business objectives," said Kreczko. "If one of those businesses decides it wants to start to tweak and put something up on YouTube, we now have a very well developed process and a template with it to quickly activate on a strategy."•