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Spotlight: Brian Heslin


Brian Heslin

Brian joined the firm’s Litigation team in 2004 from the U.S. Department of Justice. He left the firm in 2018 to join Duke Energy Corporation where he serves as Deputy General Counsel.

Q: What do you feel have been the keys to your professional success?
A: I believe that my varied experiences are keys to my success. I was fortunate to receive extensive experience as an officer and Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army and then as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. I joined MVA as a mid-level associate in 2004 and was involved in complex civil litigation and some of our earliest investigations for national and international clients. Those experiences built on each other so I felt that I could handle any situation put in front of me. As my practice evolved into the energy industry, those same experiences allowed me to bring a more holistic and effective level of representation to my clients. 
Q: What suggestions do you have for an in-house attorney looking to better engage his or her client and become a more integrated, trusted advisor?
A: It’s all about relationships. I know that’s an obvious answer but it’s true for both in-house and outside counsel. Whether its transactional, advisory or litigation, you will share experiences with your client. Those shared experiences will really lay the foundation for a strong client/attorney relationship. Of course, your behavior and engagement during these times will dictate the resulting level of trust. If you handle things in a holistic and effective manner, the clients will trust you; if you don’t, they will avoid you. In addition to the business aspects of the relationship, getting to know your clients on a personal level will also strengthen the bond. 
Q: At many firms, there has been a trend for bringing more legal work in-house and reducing the reliance on outside counsel.  Is your company a part of this trend, and if so, what have been the benefits and challenges?
A: Every legal department is focused on controlling costs. From an in-house perspective, a staff attorney is a capped cost whereas outside counsel billing on an hourly basis is harder to control without caps or alternate fee arrangements. So, there’s an ongoing balancing of sufficient internal staffing while maintaining a trusted stable of firms that can handle complex transactions, unforeseen investigations, litigation or bring specialized expertise in various areas. As regulated utilities operating in several states in a highly regulated industry, Duke Energy will always have a need for top-end outside law firms. A large procurer of outside legal support must recognize that the most effective perspective is to see outside counsel as vital members of the team. On the other side, outside counsel must be sensitive to the fact that in-house counsel are also tasked with limiting legal costs and are often judge by their ability to do so.
Q: What are your suggestions for outside counsel supporting in house counsel?
A: The most effective outside counsel demonstrate that they care more about their client’s problems and challenges than the client. This care pertains not only to the legal issues but also the contextual elements of the relationship. You should seek to understand the overall business goals, internal hierarchy and culture of the client you are supporting. If your focus is merely on the particular legal issue, then you’ll be seen merely as support for that specific task as opposed to a more trusted advisor. I’ve observed experienced outside counsel successfully make their points while also communicating an overall understanding of the client’s challenges. Those attorneys receive future calls for assistance.
Q: Outside of your family and the law what has been your most rewarding experience?
A: I love paddle boarding and surfing but I think the big thing for me is mixed martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Martial arts have always been a challenging (and sometimes necessary) outlet, particularly when I was an associate at MVA. As an older practitioner, there still is always something more to learn, someone else to test yourself against. I enjoy being a teacher while always remaining a humble student. The primary reason why I find martial arts and grappling so rewarding is due to the relationships and friendships that you gain through these activities. When you train, learn and compete with people, you develop a much deeper understanding of what makes them tick and often a strong relationship develops. These types of relationships are hard to develop in a more sterile, business environment. Finally, I’ve shared my love for martial arts with my kids so it’s been something that we share.
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