General Counsel

In-house legal jobs are growing in prestige. As our very own Mark Herrmann recently noted, in-house lawyers were once viewed as “the folks who couldn’t succeed at real jobs,” namely, jobs at firms. But that’s no longer true today, Herrmann argued, citing the trend of Biglaw partners leaving their firms for gigs as corporate counsel.

What is behind the growing allure of in-house jobs? Sure, the work is interesting and exciting, and yes, bossing around outside counsel is fun. But improving pay packages also play a role. As you can see from the rankings of America’s best-paid general counsel, GCs at top companies can take home millions.

And those rankings, by Corporate Counsel, focus on cash compensation. In-house lawyers can make many multiples of their cash comp through stock.

Take Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s general counsel. She became GC less than a year ago, but she already owns tens of millions in TWTR shares, as revealed in recent reporting about the end of Twitter’s IPO lockup period….

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As we noted last year when we spoke at length about law firm branding, “[a]side from the daily challenges associated with sustaining or exceeding gross revenue year after year, Biglaw partners are probably most worried about their firm’s brand.”

With so many law firms out there in the world, it may be difficult to figure out which one is right for a client’s specific needs. Amid recent layoffs of all kinds, even from the most respected of firms, how is one to decide which Biglaw firm to roll with?

As luck would have it, there’s a ranking to determine which firm has the strongest brand in the business — one that can withstand even the bad taste that layoffs can leave in a client’s mouth….

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Kristen Saban

* The Fortune 500′s top women lawyers have a message for you. There is a ton of female talent out there, and you’ll probably have a woman at the head of your legal department very, very soon — whether you like it or not. [Corporate Counsel]

* Cornell Law’s new dean would definitely be a contender if we still ran those Law School Dean Hotties contests. Welcome, Eduardo Peñalver. First task: resolve the tie at #13 in the latest U.S. News law school rankings. [Cornell Chronicle]

* Cleveland-Marshall Law has a new “risk-free” degree. Just go for one year. If you hate it, you can drop out, but you’ll have a master of legal studies — which is better than one-third of a J.D. [National Law Journal]

* Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, the man who has emphatically and repeatedly denied that he’s Bitcoin’s creator, hired a law firm to continue to spread his denials across the globe. Wow. Such lawyer. [Newsmax]

* This catfight could use some mud: A lawyer for Sarah Grimes, the sorority girl who came to blows with Nick Saban’s daughter and sued, pledged to take his client’s case to the state’s highest court. [AL.com]

For those of you who haven’t tuned out Jarndyce v. Jarndyce Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, the never-ending litigation between oil giant Chevron and plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger, today brings some news. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who have been following the case, but Judge Lewis Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.) just ruled in favor of Chevron, enjoining Donziger and his Ecuadorean-villager clients from trying to enforce here in the United States the multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment they secured against Chevron in Ecuador — a judgment that was the result of fraud, according to Judge Kaplan. (Links to coverage and to the parties’ reactions to the ruling appear at the end of this post.)

The Chevron/Ecuador case is one of those matters that’s most interesting to those who are actually involved in it; to the rest of us, it’s a lot of noise. Speaking for myself, I’m interested in only two aspects of it: (1) its impact on the revenue and profit of Gibson Dunn, which has been litigating the case aggressively on behalf of Chevron, and (2) its meaning for the deeply troubled law firm of Patton Boggs, which made the ill-advised decision to align itself with the Ecuadorean village people.

In a media call this afternoon that I joined, Chevron’s general counsel, R. Hewitt Pate, declined to discuss the size of the company’s legal fees in the litigation. So we’ll have to focus on that second item: the bog that is Patton Boggs. Which right now looks like the Lago Agrio oil field, prior to remediation….

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In last week’s column, I discussed the importance of external communication during the mediation process in securing a favorable result for a client. Many of the people who wrote to me as a result of last week’s column agreed with my general premise that mediation is an important skill for the contemporary litigator, and that mediation’s importance will only continue to grow.

A primary driver of that growth will be the continued desire of clients to reduce litigation costs. More and more, clients are recognizing the value of mediation as a means of resolving disputes early and with certainty. Accordingly, those same clients are looking to their outside counsel to guide them through the mediation process, and it is safe to assume that how outside counsel fares at that task could be a crucial factor in terms of a client’s willingness to send that lawyer more business….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Beyond Biglaw: Mediation Matters (Part 2)”

I worked at law firms for 25 years. I observed many things and heard many others.

Now I work in-house, and I have to select counsel to represent me.

If I saw you in action (or heard about your reputation) back then, will I hire you now?

It’s obvious how you could have impressed me: You could have put the client’s interests first, and you could have been breathtakingly good when analyzing issues, negotiating settlements, preparing briefs, or appearing in court.

But what could I have seen or heard that forever removed you from my subconscious “approved” list? What are the deadly sins?

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Rain on the Elysian plain?

Am I really mixing Homer and Lerner?

I am. (Hey, no one forces you to read this stuff.)

But to what end do I mix apples and wheelbarrows?

I live on the Elysian plain of in-house life: Freed of the demands of generating business; able to foist tedium off on the sad sacks who work at law firms; thinking strategically about the most significant issues facing the company; permitted (indeed, required) to work closely with a business. “‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

But there are occasional drawbacks to working in-house, and I try to share those with the world when I notice them. Three recently came to my attention. . . .

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He’s great at servicing clients.

* Morrison & Foerster just snagged a major government player for its global anti-corruption practice. Congrats to the firm on adding Charles Duross, formerly of the DOJ’s FCPA program, as a partner. [Washington Post]

* General counsel are keeping more and more work in-house, “presumably in order to minimize outside counsel spend.” In the alternative, it could be because the lawyers from the firms are too arrogant. [Corporate Counsel]

* If you dare to reject the Facebook friend request of the judge who’s presiding over your divorce case, then you can count on some retaliation in court. You can also count on the judge getting removed. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you postponed applying to law school, please think long and hard about why you stopped applying the first time. Only take this advice if anything’s actually changed — like your grades, your LSAT score, or the job market. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* “This is a case to restore faith in the old-fashioned idea that divorce is something that lasts forever.” Steven A. Cohen is getting off when it comes to his ex-wife’s RICO claims, but not much else. [Reuters]

He’s great at servicing clients.

Which Biglaw firms are the best? Which Biglaw firms are the best in terms of providing quality client service? Those are two very different questions. Just because a particular law firm is classified as being one of the best does not mean it isn’t chock full of arrogant a-holes (there’s actually a ranking for that). On the other hand, just because a law firm is overflowing with arrogant a-holes does not mean that it isn’t one of the best. It can be a fairly complicated equation, and general counsel are often forced to pick the perfect sweet spot when choosing outside counsel for litigation matters.

How does your firm stack up against the others, and how can you increase the likelihood that yours will be chosen to represent some of the biggest brands in the business? Being rated as one of the “absolute best” by general counsel in terms of client service will certainly give your firm a fighting chance.

Did your firm make this year’s ranking of the Client Service 30? Take a look and find out…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In-House Counsel Rank (Some Of) Biglaw’s Most Arrogant Firms For Client Service”

Being general counsel is like being Tom Hagen in the Godfather — you’re a Consigliere.

– A “top lawyer at a New York City startup,” explaining the value of creative lawyering to getting a new business off the ground. Daniel Doktori of WilmerHale spoke to a number of GCs about when startups should hire a lawyer and how to make the most of their new counsel when they do. Just always remember that Tommy isn’t a wartime consigliere.

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