General Counsel

Long ago, my law firm won an appeal, and we were thinking of publicizing the victory for the benefit of both the client and our firm.

“It’ll be good to get some attention,” I said to the senior partner.

“It’s easy to get attention,” said he. “Just run naked down Market Street at high noon. We don’t want attention. We want good attention.”

The same could be said of corporate law departments: It’s easy to get attention. It’s harder to get attention for simply doing a good job.

Suppose you wanted your corporation’s law department to be the darling of the press and be nominated for “law department of the year” honors. What would you do?

It’s easy: Make the type of big, public announcements that draw attention: “Our law department is announcing three major initiatives. First, we’re announcing a pro bono initiative. All of our in-house lawyers will devote at least 500 hours per year to pro bono matters. Second, we’re implementing a diversity initiative. [Insert details here.] Third, we’re completely eliminating reliance on the billable hour. Henceforth, all of our law firms will work on flat-fee or other alternative billing arrangements.” (There are surely other items that one could add to this list, too, that are escaping my feeble imagination.)

Gin ‘em up. Send out a press release. Presto! Your law department would be the toast of the town. People would be beating down your doors seeking interviews. But what would you have accomplished?

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Times are changing for in-house attorneys, especially for those lucky enough to ascend to the rank of general counsel. With increased regulation has come increased growth at in-house law departments, as well as increased responsibilities — so much so that general counsel have bemoaned the fact that their “jobs keep [them] up at night.” However, considering that many of them are now earning even more than they did last year, they probably shouldn’t be complaining too much about their jobs.

But that’s the thing with in-house compensation: relevant salary data is harder to come by than it is in Biglaw. In-house salaries don’t follow the Biglaw lockstep model, they’re often negotiable, and they can vary widely depending on a broad range of factors such as industry, size of legal department, and tenure. If you play your cards right, you could wind up out-earning your company’s corporate executives.

Just how much money are we talking about here? Let’s check out the results of the latest survey on general counsel compensation and find out….

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Now THIS is a mansion.

In the world of Manhattan real estate, life begins at $1 million. Sure, you can get a very nice studio or one-bedroom apartment for six figures. But if you’re looking for at least two bedrooms and two baths, in a decent part of town, be prepared to pay the mansion tax (although a 1,200-square-foot apartment is hardly a “mansion”).

In today’s edition of Lawyerly Lairs, we’ll present you with two apartments, both priced between $1 million and $2 million. Then we’ll ask you to vote in a reader poll and say which one you prefer. We’re all about interactivity here at Above the Law.

Now, on to our first contestant….

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Life in a service profession — there’s nothing to it!

When you’re asked to do something, think about how you can make the other guy’s life as easy as humanly possible. Then, do precisely that. Presto! You’re a star!

When a client asks you to do something, do it. On time and right.

When a partner asks you to do something, do it. On time and right.

“On time” is typically pretty easy to understand: That means “on or before the established deadline.”

“Right” is slightly trickier: It certainly means, at a minimum, “done to the absolute best of your ability.” (There’s a chance that “the absolute best of your ability” won’t make the grade. That’s an individualized issue, not capable of being resolved in a blog post. But it’s a lock-cinch that you won’t make the grade by “submitting a crappy first effort, riddled with incomplete research, barely literate, and filled with typographical and grammatical errors, because all I’m really trying to do is get the client/partner off my back.”)

Now I’ve moved in-house, and life in an in-house service profession is just like life at a firm — there’s nothing to it! . . .

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Alex Macgillivray

No one wants a pen that’s going to rat them out. We all want pens that can be used to write anything, and that will stand up for who we are.

Alexander Macgillivray, general counsel of Twitter, commenting to the New York Times about the social media giant’s legal efforts to protect the privacy of its users.

A big round of applause for diversity!

* Dewey know when Judge Martin Glenn will issue his ruling on the failed firm’s proposed partner contribution plan? If all goes according to plan, we can expect to learn if the PCP’s been approved or rejected as early as next week. [Am Law Daily]

* Hot on the heels of Google’s digital-book settlement, the company announced that it would be appealing its copyright infringement jury verdict in the Oracle trial. One thing’s for sure: Judge Alsup will be angered terribly by this. [Bloomberg]

* David Askew, formerly the director of Edwards Wildman’s pro bono program, will now lead the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms as CEO and general counsel. [Corporate Counsel]

* The American Bar Association submitted an amicus brief in support of using race as a factor in college admissions, because diversity in college education is a must for diversity in law schools, duh. [ABA Journal]

* Remember the family law judge who got caught beating his daughter in a video that went viral? Now he wants the Texas Supreme Court to reinstate him, over his ex-wife’s objections. Good luck with that. [CNN]

Landing a corporate client is usually a happy time for any law firm, big or small. Now, the representation may not be a day in the park — after all, there are many, many ways for general counsel to drive outside counsel absolutely nuts. But even so, this kind of a client is another notch in your firm’s belt, no matter how difficult the relationship. Especially given today’s economy, this is a client that your firm will want to keep for as long as possible.

But regardless of everyone’s efforts, your firm just couldn’t seem to get it right. Your firm’s lawyers tried to placate the legal department’s every whim, to apparently no avail. Perhaps the proposed budget was a little too high. Perhaps an attorney from your firm was just a bit too snippy with in-house counsel. Whatever the case may have been, your firm got fired.

Why does this keep happening, and how can you make it stop?

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* “This case has nothing to do with the United States.” We’d normally let that slide because of this law from 1789, but now the Supreme Court is suddenly skeptical about the validity of the Alien Tort Claims Act. [Reuters]

* “Why are we being punished for Dewey & LeBoeuf?” Come to think of it, former employees at the failed firm are probably wondering the exact same thing as the fictional characters on “The Good Wife.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Reduce, reuse, and recycle your claims? New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against JPMorgan, alleging that the bank’s Bear Sterns business defrauded mortgage-bond investors. [Bloomberg]

* A man of many firsts: Randall Eng, the first Asian judge in the state, was appointed to lead New York’s Second Department as presiding justice, the first Asian-American to serve in the position. [New York Law Journal]

* UC Irvine Law is planning a six-week summer camp for in-house counsel. They’re calling it the Center for Corporate Law, but Mark Herrmann’s “General Counsel University” has a nicer ring to it. [National Law Journal]

* Why shouldn’t you get a dual JD/MBA? Because hiding out in school for another year isn’t going to save you from all of the extra debt you’ve incurred earning yet another degree. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the firms that the Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. These are the firms that corporate clients turn to when they’ve got bet-the-company litigation. From Exxon Mobil to Apple to Walmart, and everywhere in between, these are the clients with the deepest of pockets, and if you care at all about the business end of the law, then this is a list that you should care about.

But this time around, the list looks a little different. Due to the state of the economy, general counsel are now looking for more ways to reduce costs, and are constantly seeking out alternative fee structures. The firms on this year’s list may have been the ones that were most amenable to such changes.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at which firms topped this year’s list….

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If you are bad at these things, it can ruin you life.

I don’t even remember my SAT score. I know it wasn’t a round number. I know it was in the top 5 of my high school class. But the actual number, I couldn’t tell you. And I wouldn’t know where to look it up. I mean, we’re talking about something that happened to me almost two decades ago. I think the last time somebody asked me about my SAT score to my face I made a mental note to have sex with his girlfriend.

And in the intervening two decades, hasn’t the scoring scale changed multiple times? I have no idea how my score that I can’t remember would look compared to others who took the test more recently.

Luckily, none of this matters because nobody is going to ask to see my SAT score before they let me spew nonsense on the internet.

It’s a good thing that I’m not trying to be a general counsel at a hedge fund. I know it’s kind of “industry standard” to ask for that information if you want a job, but can’t we all agree that it’s an incredibly lazy way to hire employees?

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