In-House Counsel

Burger King bounty for Biglaw.

* Judge Posner dished out a whole lot of benchslaps at yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments over Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on same-sex marriage. [BuzzFeed]

* Major U.S. and Canadian law firms chow down on Burger King’s whopper of a deal with Tim Hortons. [Am Law Daily]

* A recent Delaware court ruling on attorney-client privilege might allow in-house lawyers to speak more freely about wrongdoing at their companies, according to Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon. [DealBook / New York Times]

* The corruption trial of former Virginia governor continues; yesterday Bob McDonnell’s sister took the stand. [Washington Post]

* A favorable evidentiary ruling for Aaron Hernandez. [Fox Sports]

* And good news for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, the two law professors running for governor and lieutenant governor of New York: the Times dissed their opponent, Andrew Cuomo, with a non-endorsement. [New York Times]

* I recently spoke with one of my cousins Joao Atienza of the Cebu Sun Star, about Above the Law and the world of legal blogging. [Cebu Sun Star]

For months, we talked to counsel about our prospects in the case. He was sanguine:

“There’s nothing to worry about here. The plaintiff put a huge number in its prayer for relief, but you can’t possibly lose that much. Plaintiff’s liability case is thin, and the damages are inflated. You’ll probably win. If you lose, you’d lose no more than $1 million on an average day. On the worst day known to man, you can’t even theoretically lose more than $5 million. I wouldn’t offer more than a couple hundred grand to settle.”

A few months before trial, we ask counsel to put some skin in the game: “It’ll be expensive to try this case, and you feel good about our prospects. We’d like you to propose an alternative fee agreement that aligns your interests with ours. We’d like to pay you less than your ordinary hourly rates in the months leading up to trial, but we’ll give you a success fee if we win. Please think about it, and let us know if you have any ideas.”

A couple of weeks pass, as counsel discusses the case with his firm’s “senior management.” When the alternative fee proposal arrives, the goalposts have miraculously moved! In the course of just two uneventful weeks, our prospects for success have changed entirely!

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When you work at a law firm, you must actually solve problems.

If you’re paid to win a case, you must identify the route to victory and develop the facts that take you there. (“They don’t pay us $15 a minute to lose.”) If you’re arguing an appeal, you must anticipate every possible question and figure out a persuasive answer to it.

There’s no place to hide and no one to whom you can push hard issues.

Not so in a corporation: If an issue is insoluble, just send it to the law department! That puts the matter to rest, and you didn’t have to figure out the answer!

Remarkably, I’ve seen this solution proposed not just by folks who work in-house, but by outside counsel, too . . . .

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‘Hmm, do I really need a JD/MBA?’

* “I’m 98, and I don’t want to depart this world with this thing hanging over me.” Miriam Moskowitz was convicted more than 60 years ago, and now Baker Botts is trying to help clear her name before she dies. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “Get a lawyer, you know how this works.” Boston Scientific’s chief counsel was killed earlier this week, and police think that they may have identified a suspect — her his former flame — in the brutal murder. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

* According to a recent study, California’s affirmative action ban has done some damage to minority admissions rates at both Berkeley Law and UCLA Law, and now things like this happen to their minority students. It’s quite sad. [Daily Californian]

* The ABA has delayed taking action on Concordia Law’s bid for accreditation, and instead appointed a fact-finder. We’ll help you with this fact of the day: we don’t need more law schools. [National Law Journal]

* If you’re thinking about signing up for a JD/MBA, then congratulations, at least one of those degrees may prove to be useful to you in some way, someday. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

As I promised in my last post, we’ll take a look at the “mindfulness” trend and see how it can help us to become better-looking lawyers. I mean, better lawyers. What is mindfulness? According to Jeena Cho, over at The Anxious Lawyer, mindfulness is “paying attention to each moment without preference or judgment.”

Jeena points out that the law practice involves constant stress, distractions, mental juggling, and multi-tasking. Our minds are integral to our careers, yet “we rarely think about maintaining a healthy, happy mind. Mindfulness meditation trains the mind just like exercise trains the body.”

That’s what Jeena said. But what I actually heard was: “You too can become a Jedi Master, young Padawan….”

What’s so great about mindfulness? According to Jeena, mindfulness can have lots of physical and mental benefits. For example, it can increase your ability to cope with stressful or painful situations, decrease negative physical and psychological symptoms, improve self-esteem, increase energy, and improve pain levels. And more.

Well, that’s a pretty cool list. I asked her whether it could also make me fabulously wealthy, or let me retire early, or at least help me to figure out how to deal with that pesky Naboo royal cruiser that’s been flying around my yard lately…?

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A full house for last week’s in-house counsel panel at Betterment.

Last week, Betterment and Above the Law hosted a great panel discussion about working as an in-house lawyer at a relatively young company. The event, hosted at Betterment’s spacious and airy offices in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, drew a standing-room-only crowd of around 200 people.

How can you get a job as an in-house lawyer for a startup? And what’s life like once you’re there?

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First, thanks to Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins, and Ulmer & Berne, all of whom endured my “book talk” about The Curmudgeon’s Guide To Practicing Law when I was recently back in the States.

Second — and proof that my mind is navigating on its own — I recently paused to think about driverless cars.

I suppose that, if you lived (as I do) in a major city that may be road-testing driverless cars before January, you’d be curious about these vehicles, too. (You’d want to consider, for example, whether you should stay on the sidewalk, even if that means walking endlessly in a one-block circle for the rest of your life.)

And if you labored (as I do) in the insurance (or insurance brokerage) space, you’d be scratching your head about what might happen to your industry if billions of dollars of auto insurance premium vanished (or was spent by people other than drivers) overnight. Lawyers for insurers should be thinking about driverless cars.

So, too, should lawyers outside the insurance space. Do you do DWI defense work? Your practice area may not exist in ten years. Do you participate in automotive accident or product liability cases? The world may be about to shift under your feet.

And I’m just getting warmed up here. . . .

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

For senior associates up for partner, firms have become increasingly focused on business potential and less so on an associate’s ability to outclass others in the courtroom or at the negotiating table.

In the days of yore, the partner track in Biglaw was oftentimes a reward for consistent competence and professionalism. In an era of PPP and RPL, most firms (other than the Cravath, Quinn, or Simpson Thacher types) are less likely to promote associates unless they see real revenue-generating potential.

If you find yourself in your fifth to tenth year and are unsure whether you will make partner, here are four steps to help you steer your career…

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* Nothing demands a SWAT team like a 90-year-old woman. [Lowering the Bar]

* Not so much legal, but here’s Princeton Review’s ranking of the best and worst colleges. If you’re looking for hard liquor, head to Iowa City. [TaxProf Blog]

* Dewey know what Al Togut’s going to say about law firm bankruptcies. Yeah, I know, but we’re just going to keep riding this pun. [Forbes]

* Corruption in New Orleans? Hold on, I need a second to let this sink in. [The Times-Picayune]

* Be sure to come by Betterment on Wednesday to hear from a panel of general counsel about the transition to in-house work for a startup company. [Above the Law]

* The CFPB is cracking down on debt-collecting law firms. So if you’re a bottom-feeder, the government is coming for you. [Gawker]

I used to be smart.

I read cases. I ginned up clever distinctions. I examined witnesses and knew what the evidence said. I argued appeals. I wrote real, substantive articles.

I had interesting things to say about multidistrict litigation, class actions, and product liability defense.

I spoke at CLE classes — both to maintain my (and my firm’s) profile and because I had worthwhile things to say.

I coulda been a contender.

But that was then.

I’ve been in-house for nearly five years now, and I’ve become a fool. . . .

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