Business Law Profiles

Profile in Practice: Helen Leah Conroy

As part of CEB’s commitment to bringing together California’s legal community, our blog will post a short interview with one of your fellow attorneys.

This week, we profile Helen Leah Conroy:

CEB: What are your practice areas and how/why did you choose or start in your practice area?
Helen: I negotiate transactions for and with internet service and media companies. Some are agreements with vendors providing traditional services, in many instances, outsourced; others involve internet-based services in support of operations (e.g., payment processing, billing and collections, etc.). I also negotiate agreements dealing with internet content, both on the provider and the publishing side, as well as agreements for software-as-a-service.  I was a commercial litigator for 15 years, trying cases involving software channel/distribution disputes. I figured it would be a lot more fun to negotiate clearly drafted agreements that are carefully thought through, than to fight over poorly drafted ones (the only ones that are ever litigated). I was right.

CEB: What do you like best and least about practicing law?
Helen: I like solving problems, and providing insights into possible areas of risk that the clients may not have considered. Having a wealth of relevant experience, which I share with clients who need and appreciate it, is tremendously satisfying.  What do I like least?  I have my own practice, and negotiate a lot of deals with aggressive time frames. In December, especially, the stress can be pretty intense. But that seems a small price to pay for the independence I enjoy, having my own practice, and doing such interesting, satisfying work. As my mother would say, “The rest of the world should have your problems, dear.”

CEB: What is the best legal tip you ever received?
Helen: Don’t say or write anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing quoted on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow morning. I would add, “or on an enormous panel, before a jury, as a trial exhibit.”

CEB: What CEB book or program have you found most helpful in your practice and why?
Helen: Privacy Compliance and Litigation in California. Privacy and the use of personal information is an ever-changing, increasingly complex area, presenting significant risks to every one of my clients (and every lawyer’s clients, everywhere). Additionally, when I was a litigator, the CEB action guides were indispensable. I’d always reach for them first.

CEB: Why do you choose to speak/write for CEB?
Helen: Because I find CEB’s publications so helpful in my own practice, and have since I was a junior associate. CEB materials are well edited, providing organized, useful information for practitioners. I like to provide useful, practical information to my clients, so it’s a great fit.

CEB: How do you think the practice of law will change in the next 15 years?
Helen: We’re living in a period of constant, dramatic change in the way information is obtained and shared, and in the way we communicate and work with one another. This will continue to transform the way our clients do business and the way they use outside counsel. Those of us who keep pace and use new technologies for information and project management, and to collaborate with our clients, will thrive.

CEB: What is the most interesting book you have read (lately)?
Helen: A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (and its sequel, Between the Woods and Water).

CEB: What is your contact information?
Helen: Piedmont Law Partners, 4096 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611.

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