MEET ME! Q&A with Kerry Tassopoulos, Outsourced General Counsel
As an outsourced general counsel, what do you do for your clients?
My first task with any client is to LISTEN to their story. I will ask the client to share information, so I can assess if they have an opportunity or a challenge. During my 30+ plus year career – as a lawyer, lobbyist and business leader – I have learned that listening is key to success. I typically allow an hour or two for this initial conversation.
Then, I will ask questions – I work to understand the obvious issues as well as the nuances. Developing trust with my client is important, as they are asking me to provide the best advice and counsel for them – so my questions show them I’ve heard them, and am now collecting more information to help me develop a plan that meets their business needs and reduces risk.
I find out about timing and pending deadlines, willingness to fight hard or work towards settlement, if there are other parties involved, and focus on what is the best solution for this client. Once the information is shared, I ask the client what “success” looks like – as this can affect my approach, and the time and cost involved.
Finally I will review all the information and provide the client with options, a plan of action and a budget. Clients want as much certainty as possible – so providing this plan, and then regularly communicating what is being done, milestones which are achieved, challenges that have arisen, contributes to a trusting attorney-client relationship. My goal is to solve the problem and have the client be satisfied with the outcome.
Why did you decide to become an attorney?
It may sound trite – but I became a lawyer because as a teenager I saw examples of lawyers, including family members, who would listen, offer practical advice to solve problems, and were seen as trustworthy individuals. My older cousin was a small town lawyer – well respected in the community – and I often thought that I would emulate him. In law school I clerked for my cousin – and was inspired by his calm personality, his professional approach to solving legal challenges, and his diligence and hard work.
My legal career – from private practice to an in-house role, from a fledgling lawyer to a seasoned managing attorney – provided me with opportunity to learn about a wide array of legal issues, and also learn how people deal with the law and risk in different ways. Today I focus on being a trusted advisor, a professional presence, a calming influence – and a lawyer committed to working as hard as I can to achieve the client’s objective. For me success as a lawyer is about trust with clients, and the best outcome for them, considering all the factors and circumstances.
What gets you up in the morning? How do you typically start your day?
Since I am a father of three adult children I will share “Dad humor” – my alarm clock gets me up in the morning!
Actually the best starts to my day happen the night before – reviewing what I’ve accomplished that day, planning ways to improve the next day, and reflecting in gratitude. The next morning I’ll wake up (usually without the alarm!) – and then calmly prep for the day – reading an inspirational article or listening to a podcast, spending time in devotion or meditation, talking a walk in the morning coolness. My goal is to ensure I am as mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared for the new day as possible. While it doesn’t always work that way….. it’s my goal.
I wish I could share this as the next phase – complete demanding fitness routine, eat super healthy breakfast, respond to texts/emails in 10 minutes, block 3 hours for project work (using the Pomodor approach)….. you get my drift. Honestly, I do have a “to do” list, and work diligently to handle client matters quickly, communicate frequently with clients, not be distracted by social media and focus on staying in “the flow”.
This is me – a regular fellow, with life experience, and professional experience in many areas – and that is what “gets me up in the morning” – the opportunity to work on interesting projects, to meet new people (right now through email and video chat!) and find ways to “do well by doing good”.
Why did you decide to become an Auxana GC?
In 2019 I began a new professional journey, after more than 30 years as an in-house lawyer. When a good friend told me about Auxana I thought “this is interesting – perhaps I can use my in-house experience this way” as an outsourced general counsel.
Then, I spoke with Beth Lebowitz and Valerie Spengler and heard concepts that resonated with me – providing companies, often ones which have never had an in-house lawyer, the opportunity to engage a talented, experienced outsourced general counsel services for a flat fee, usually on a monthly basis. It seemed like Auxana Inc. was designed with me in mind. Now I realize that my success as a member of the Auxana community is very much a function of my time, effort and focus. So this next step on my journey is one I’m excited about!
What is your stance on the innovation of the legal industry?
Regarding innovation in the legal industry – “the train has left the station!” Steve Jobs said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. So those who are pushing for innovation and change have amazing opportunities to create a new approach to the legal profession.
It’s June 2020 and the impact of COVID 19, as well as the impact and influence of technology in the provision of professional services, is being seen everywhere. Whether lawyers like it or not, many traditional legal tasks are being commoditized. The way lawyers draft, review and maintain contracts is outdated – at least without technology. E-discovery and AI applications have dramatically changed litigation.
Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that innovation and change in the legal profession will happen overnight. I do believe, however, that the disruption in the legal profession, and in the provision of legal services, is long past due and that the changes will be even more rapid, more disruptive and more challenging.
What would you do if you weren’t an attorney?
My dream job growing up was to be a sportscaster! How tough could it be to go to great venues, like Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, or the Masters in Augusta, or the Super Bowl…. and just talk about what was happening on the field! Well, that didn’t happen…
Then, since I am of Greek heritage, I toyed with the idea of opening a restaurant! But the feedback was “no, you will work every weekend, and on holidays, and why did you go to law school if you wanted to be in the food business?”
What about being a professor? I think being a tenured professor could be one of the best “gigs” in the world. You can’t be fired (usually), you can wear business casual clothes every day, you have a sabbatical every few years and can spend a few months studying turtles, or volcanos, or climbing mountains….. But I’m not thrilled with grading all those papers!
So, where does that lead me? My passion is people, relationships, connecting the dots, solving problems, offering solutions, learning new information and ideas…… sounds like being an attorney is the best fit for me!
What are you watching right now?
The television show I’m watching now – and one that’s addictive to me – is “Breaking Bad.” When it was first released I was so judgmental – “I don’t want to watch a show that glamorizes crystal meth.” Wow, was I wrong! This is a great show about human nature, power, manipulation, lies, deceit, strategy, fear, anger – yes, it’s the human condition. Glad I’m spending time watching it!
Thank you! Before you go, is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to share my story!
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