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R. Craig Scott’s Executive Law Group Exists Exclusively for Senior Executives In Transition

For many people in Orange County, R. Craig Scott needs no introduction at all. Since 1978, the award winning labor and employment attorney has represented thousands of employers in his roles as attorney and Partner with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton (1978—1990); Partner with Pettis, Tester, Kruse & Krinsky (1990—1993) and as Founder and Managing Partner of Scott & Whitehead (1993—present).
Others know him as a public servant, who worked tirelessly for three years to establish Laguna Hills as its own incorporated city. That of course, is in addition to serving on City Council for 19 years, and even as the city’s Mayor for four terms. He is known for his leadership in his church, including serving as bishop of a ward.
Still others know him as an author and educator, having penned more than 75 columns and articles on labor and employment law issues in various publications. He also authored or co-authored five books on employment law, including Severance Agreements: 6 Steps™ To A Better Deal, the first guidebook in a series of four focusing on severance and employment agreements.
But since 2000, Scott has been renowned as the expert negotiator who C-Level, Senior and Public Executives in transition turn to when it comes to reviewing and negotiating employment contracts and severance agreements. In short, Scott’s days are filled with rescuing senior executives during times of career crises. Indeed, it was his launch of Executive Law Group, Inc. nearly 15 years ago which has propelled Scott to the top of the referral list for attorneys needing to help sophisticated clients in professional predicaments.

With 20+ years of experience in employment law firms, Scott realized “No one was serving the legal needs of executives in the workplace. Employment law firms were only representing employers, or only rank and file employees. Executives fit in neither group,” he says. As such, the basis for what would become Executive Law Group was born. Since that time, Scott proudly says “the senior executive is our only client.”
Saying that Scott had alighted upon an underserved niche is a gross understatement. “As far as my partner Brian Cole and I know, Executive Law Group is the only firm in the country that specifically focuses on public and private sector senior executives. While other firms may include executive services on their list of practice areas, we have found no other firm that works with senior executives exclusively,” Scott says.

Executive Law Group was successful almost from the start, largely due to Scott’s vast experience in representing employers, which gives him firsthand knowledge of how employers tend to deal with executives’ employment issues. He also understands the sensitive nature of negotiation when it comes to severance or contract complications and tailors his level of visible involvement to his clients’ preference.

To that end, there are many cases in which Scott’s or Cole’s work is entirely behind the scenes. “Sometimes our client doesn’t want to reveal our existence, for fear it may polarize the parties for us to negotiate directly with their employer. We are happy to remain confidential, and work to lay out our plan without their employer ever knowing we were involved in helping to negotiate contracts and packages,” Scott says. Yet Scott is also more than willing to speak directly with inhouse attorneys or the employer’s outside counsel, at the client’s request. In these cases, more often than not, due to his longevity and reputation in the field, the attorneys are quite familiar with Scott’s experience and reputation for tenacity. “I serve our clients well by tenacious asking. When the other side may think the negotiations are concluding, I push for ‘just one more’ deal point, such as an attorneys’ fees allowance, a pro rata bonus or totally employer-paid COBRA continuation benefits coverage,” he says. “I am known for ‘never give up’ pursuit of our clients’ objectives,” Scott says simply. “That’s how I have to be.” In other cases, Scott is willing to take on very public roles particularly when it comes to working with public employees, such as city managers.

By way of example, Scott once represented a city manager in Orange County who was first placed on administrative leave and then terminated by the city council. Scott won a court-ordered reversal of the termination and then defended the city manager against the city’s lawsuit which charged him with self-dealing and mismanagement. In this case, the manager had sought out Scott due not only to his reputation as an expert in his field, but also due to his own experience as a publicly elected official. Scott served not only as attorney for the case (ultimately negotiating a substantial settlement for the client) but as the client’s public spokesperson as well. Furthermore, the case resulted in state-wide reforms in how public administrators receive and account for job-related benefits, administer compensation and benefits for subordinates and apprise publicly-elected officials of their decisions and conduct.
What is incredibly clear to Scott, no matter whether clients need him behind-the-scenes or on the scene, time is of the absolute essence when it comes to executive matters. As such, he has gone to great lengths to ensure that Executive Law Group is synonymous with efficiency.

“Clarence Carter, ELG’s general manager conducts all preengagement discussions with prospective executive clients,” says Scott. “During the discussion he performs a conflict check, listens to the client’s story, explains how the firm works, and its rates, engages the clients and directs them to prepare a narrative of their story, so that the client is packaged and on my desk before I spend even one minute of time billing them,” he says.
“The efficiency of this process allows ELG attorneys to focus their time on client work rather than on sales and marketing.

After fourteen years of engaging clients this way, we wouldn’t imagine doing it any other way,” Scott says. As soon as the client’s crisis has been identified, Scott’s work begins immediately. In many cases, he is on the phone with the client within 24 hours of the initial contact. “We conduct 99% of client matters over the phone and via fax and email. I’ve worked with thousands of senior professionals throughout California, but have met less than 5% of them in person,” he says.
The short term engagement appeals not only to his clients but to Scott as well. “10 hours is a long engagement for us,” he says.
“It may be spread out over one or two weeks, but rarely do we work with a client for longer than three weeks. I enjoy that this work is fast moving. It keeps my work feeling fresh, which I prefer in contrast to litigation which can drag out for years,” he adds. If it sounds like Scott has found everything he’s looking for at this stage in his legal career, it’s quite frankly, because he has. “I enjoy looking out for those that nobody else looks out for. By and large the people I get to work with are incredibly bright, capable people, and to assist them in times of crisis is very rewarding,” he says.

In regards to the future, Scott has no plans to change direction now. With more than 2,000 extremely satisfied clients, Scott plans to keep doing exactly what the firm has been doing so successfully. “We’ve been developing our brand for almost 15 years, and our plan moving forward is to continue to do good work, because our business is almost entirely referral based.
We know that as long as we continue to provide the strategic negotiations and much needed solutions that executives in transition or crisis need, we will continue to grow,” he says.


Clarence Carter, General Manager
Executive Law Group, Inc.
888-920-EXEC (3932)
1301 Dove Street, Suite 1000
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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