The guiding principles throughout Christos Yatrakis’s career have been producing results and driving innovation. While an associate at a large New York firm, Yatrakis learned the value of results-driven work: it often meant the difference between generating new cases versus losing a client. He also came to understand how providing clients with prompt feedback could prove to be valuable support for companies needing to make important, time-sensitive decisions. The ability to mold and impact a company’s approach to matters appealed to Yatrakis, and so he began to look for opportunities outside the law firm.
Yatrakis wanted to work for a company that shared his mindset and sought out potential job opportunities among businesses leading with change. That’s when Arrow Electronics came on his radar. “I thought a company like Arrow—one that has an eye to the future and works to help others innovate—would be a neat transition,” he explains. As one of the largest distributors of electronic component parts and cloud computing software, Arrow is a leader in unique design and thinking outside the box.
One concept that piqued Yatrakis’s interest early on was its design of the SAM (semiautonomous motorcar), a modified Corvette that enabled a quadriplegic former IndyCar race driver, Sam Schmidt, to drive again using only the motion of his head. An organization capable of designing original solutions for customers and building life-changing technology was exactly what Yatrakis was after.
At Arrow, one of his initial goals was to begin implementing and streamlining processes to help ensure the legal department ran more smoothly. One of his first projects was overhauling the e-discovery process. “When I arrived, discovery used an Excel spreadsheet, a very manual approach,” he says. “Now we’ve leveraged some tools, like Office 365 and Workday, to automate our method and to be more efficient in how we collect documents and from whom we collect documents. Even the litigation hold process of sending out notices to our internal folks, and tracking and auditing them, has become less manual.”
Yatrakis says that the e-discovery system, which required two dedicated staff members, is now only part of one person’s job. Having a less time-consuming system also protects the company. “From a risk perspective, we are mitigating our risk when it comes to litigation and potential exploitation claims,” he says. “With our new approach, we are better protecting the integrity of the data, and also protecting the material that we have and are able to use in our litigation.”
Yatrakis has also found great success tackling the billing process for outside counsel. “I rely heavily on my external counsel for guidance on new trends, new laws, and for helping us out, whether it’s an M&A deal, or a cybersecurity incident,” he says, adding that the firms he works with support the company’s overall innovation efforts. “I’ve formed good relationships with some of these firms and some really smart lawyers, who really are best in class, and they bring fresh ideas and solutions to the table.”
These relationships drove him to revise the payment structure to improve the experience for everyone. “Billing by the hour has become somewhat antiquated,” Yatrakis says. “Companies like Arrow don’t see a lot of value in always having law firms bill this way, so we’ve come up with ideas that work for both us and our external counsel.”
Understanding that both sides need to be up-front with their expectations and how they spend their time, Yatrakis sat down for a long conversation. “We say to our litigation contacts, ‘OK, you’re going to have probably ten thousand e-discovery documents to review and produce, about ten depositions, and two experts, so let’s come up with a budget for that and lock it in,’” he explains. “We have phased charges, costs, and expenses that we track. They know what they need to manage their teams and be efficient, and we know what material we need to give them.
“And it may change over time,” he continues. “We may decide that it’s actually bigger than that, have a follow-up conversation, and change the expectations or the parameters so that they’re satisfied that they’re doing good work and their work is being recognized. At the same time, we can manage the budget, know what we’re spending, and determine if it’s a worthwhile endeavor or not.” Since instituting this new process, Arrow has reduced its litigation spend while increasing its return on investment. And partner firms have responded positively.
“What we do is actively manage your matters and have your outside counsel actively manage your matters with you,” Yatrakis says. “A lot of companies give a case to a law firm and then forget it. My philosophy is to be a partner for those law firms and actually help them manage the cases for us.”
Thanks to the new process, Yatrakis says that Arrow is more strategic in its legal initiatives and has saved the company resources along the way. That, in turn, frees up his ability to focus on other areas within the legal department that can be streamlined through innovation to help his business partners achieve their ultimate objectives.
“It’s important to guide people and provide insight of what I’ve done throughout my career—what’s worked and what hasn’t worked—so that we can collaborate and become more efficient and successful,” he says. So far, the process at Arrow is working.
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP:
“Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP is proud of our longstanding relationship with Arrow Electronics. We are privileged to work with Christos Yatrakis, an exceptional attorney, colleague and leader.”
–Michael F. Buchanan, Partner