Biglaw, In-House Counsel

Is In-House Not All That It’s Cracked Up to Be?

dan cooperman apple to bingham mccutchen.jpgThe common assumption is that corporate counsel positions are cushier than Biglaw gigs. One of the big reasons is that in-house hours are supposedly more humane. However, Daniel Cooperman, a former partner at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen (now Bingham McCutchen), who left Biglaw to work as general counsel at Oracle and then Apple, suggests otherwise.

At Oracle for 11 years, he only lasted two at Apple before he burned out. He talked to the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog about his time getting housed:

Mr. Cooperman admitted that he needed a break from the intensity of the general counsel job, which he has held for a total of 13 years.
“It’s an extreme amount of responsibility and accountability and you need to be available fully 24 hours a day. After all that time, I really wanted a bit of sabbatical,” he said.

Cooperman is getting that “breather” by heading back to Biglaw. He’s returning to Bingham as of counsel in the firm’s Silicon Valley office. He told the WSJ that his mission is to help the law firm understand its corporate clients’ culture.

Lesson one: don’t be offended when people hang up on you…

Cooperman says that Biglaw types don’t understand their clients’ world:

He said law firms in general don’t fully understand the speed, urgency and virtual nature of corporations’ operations.
“They move from one matter to the next in alarming, breathtaking speed. You don’t have a great deal of mindshare,” said Mr. Cooperman, adding that part of his role would be to help his firm better understand its clients-even if it’s something as small as learning not to be offended when clients hang up the phone abruptly.

‘Mindshare,’ eh? In addition to proper phone etiquette — or lack thereof — we suspect Cooperman will soon be schooling his Bingham colleagues in “client speak.”

Since long-time Apple GC, Nancy Heinen, left the company under a cloud, charged by the SEC in connection with stock option backdating, the company’s had a hard time keeping someone in the position for long. Steve Jobs personally offered Cooperman $25 million in stock options in 2007 after previous counsel, Donald Rosenberg, left after just 10 months for Qualcomm.

When Cooperman left in October, he reportedly gave up on $18 million in stock options. Bruce Sewell, the former general counsel of Intel, stepped in.

It seems like Apple’s general counsels have lifespans even shorter than that of the iPod. (After two years, mine now goes dead if it’s too cold outside.)

We wonder whether Cooperman has his finger on the mousepad here. We hope working in-house is not so bad, because it’s where jobs are to be found these days.

In-house folk, is the culture clash between Biglaw and clients this extreme? Or is this just one bad Apple?

Former Apple Counsel Joins Bingham [Digits/Wall Street Journal]
Bingham Hires Apple General Counsel, Expands Silicon Valley Office [Bingham McCutchen]
Bite of Apple Is Sweet for New GC [The Recorder]
Former Apple GC Says He Will Help Bingham Better Understand Its Clients [ABA Journal]
Changing Demands Have In-House Counsel Gaining Over Outside Firms, GCs Say [ABA Journal]

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