In-House Counsel

Foraging: it’s not just for grizzly bears.

Last week, in the inaugural installment of our Career Alternatives video series with our friends at Bloomberg Law, we brought you the story of Lisa Granik, a lawyer turned “Master of Wine.” She’s living the dream, drinking and thinking and writing about wine for a living.

Well, how would you like some food to go with your wine? Today’s career alternative for attorneys: forager.

Forager? Does ordering something on Seamless count? Is Tristan Taylor Thomas looking for food in the trash again?

No, no. This foraged food gets eaten at one of America’s most acclaimed restaurants, by folks who pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege. And the forager, who graduated from a top law school, walked away from a high-powered legal career….

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I am guessing that approximately six people will read this column. That’s down from the usual nineteen, and it is because this is the day before Thanksgiving 2012 — the Last Thanksgiving if the Mayans were right, and just another day gorging on turkey with the family if they were wrong. Since so few of us are toiling away today, I want to give thanks for some things, and to some people, instead of writing another piece on in-house life.

First, thanks to David, Elie, and Staci. It has been an adventure writing for you. I used to read this site every day, and enjoyed it more often than not. I am sure that one day we’ll meet face to face and share some cocktails, discuss open-toed shoes, and admire Staci’s weight loss and wedding ring.

Thanks to the other writers on this blog, especially Tom Wallerstein and Mark Herrmann. Among the other writers here, those two consistently cause me to attempt to step up my game. That is the mark of good writing, when you strive to write as well as those whom you admire.

Thanks to the Commentariat. I am inspired and chastened by your (sometime) wit, and disgusted by your depravity. However, and I mean this sincerely, you are like the hordes in the pit of the Globe theater, ready to throw waste or snark on a moments notice — sometimes deservedly so, and sometimes with good humor. I hope you find jobs, and that the Internets always remain anonymous for you….

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* “[L]awyers aren’t trained as accountants,” but Gibson Dunn, Freshfields, Drinker Biddle, and Skadden may have some splainin’ to do when it comes to Hewlett-Packard’s M&A blowout with Autonomy. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Looks like it’s time for some holiday musical chairs: Dorsey & Whitney’s managing partner Marianne Short will be leaving the firm at year’s end to join UnitedHealth as its chief legal officer. [Twin Cities Business]

* The court-ordered mediation between Hostess and the bakers’ union broke down last night. If Judge Drain approves the company’s liquidation plan, the Twinkie may disappear from whence it came. [Reuters]

* Remember the students from Texas Southern who sued because their contracts prof allegedly “curve[d] them out of the class”? Yeah, that got dismissed faster than you can say R2K §90. [National Law Journal]

* You shall not pass — or use Lord of the Rings characters in online gambling games! J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate is suing Warner Brothers for $80M over improper licensing of the late author’s characters. [Bloomberg]

* Please don’t tickle me, Elmo. One week after an accuser recanted his allegations against puppeteer Kevin Clash, another one filed suit over an underage sexual relationship. [Media Decoder / New York Times]

* There’s nothing like some man-on-man sexual harassment to get you going in the morning. Sparks Steak House paid $600K to settle charges lodged by 22 male servers over an eight year period. [Corporate Counsel]

* Seems like this pulchritudinous plaintiff’s contract case is still kicking, and Emel Dilek testified that sleeping with the boss was “absolutely not” one of her roles during her time at Mercedes-Benz. [New York Post]

* Lululemon and Calvin Klein have settled their patent spat over elastic waistbands on yoga pants. Here’s hoping the Canadian yoga-wear company turned this lemon of a lawsuit into lemonade. [Businessweek]

* What do divorcées do in their spare time? They go to Florida’s $350M courthouse to spray paint it with broken hearts and notes for the judge who presided over their proceedings. [Riptide 2.0 / Miami New Times]

This week marks the second anniversary of my “Inside Straight” column at Above the Law.

Two years. Two hundred columns. One book. And 1.5 million clicks through the “jumps” to “continue reading” my silly little ditties. Your favorite columns were here (but it was a fraud, and I admitted as much), here, and here (and the kid landed a great job within weeks after the post went up!). I’ll lift my exhausted typing fingers to crank out these words: Thank you!

But back to business.

Oooh, oooh, oooh.

I wrote back in September that clients don’t prompt law firms to open new offices by insisting on one-stop shopping, and I suddenly became a popular guy. The letter carrier was exhausted, schlepping all those e-mails to my e-mailbox.

Remarkably, few people fundamentally disagreed with my thesis. I wrote that clients don’t insist on one-stop shopping, and I expected to hear that my experience was limited, my evidence anecdotal, and my position ridiculous. Instead, I heard largely that law firms open new offices for many and varied reasons, but client insistence on one-stop shopping is far down the list.

So why do firms launch new offices?

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In-house lawyers receive a good amount of guidance on ways to effectively deal with business clients. However, we typically receive less direction on how to work well with another big, and in some ways, our biggest, “client”: our managers.

Managers differ. Some are very hands-off and rely on you to update them only when you think it’s necessary. (Sometimes you may need to remind them who you are.) Or you may have a micromanager. Does he insist that you provide him with a memo, with citations, for each bathroom break you plan take? Bingo. Management skills vary. Some managers sincerely care about your well-being, and others suspect everyone wants to off them for their job. There are those who want to be your bestest friend forever and ever, while others maintain a cool distance.

As a “direct report,” you need to learn how to effectively work with your manager’s style and preferences. Banging your head against your office wall is only one of many good options. There are also several “managing up” approaches that apply when working with nearly all managers, regardless of how much of a freakshow your own boss may be….

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* BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 charges and pay $4.5B in fines, but before going through with it, several Biglaw firms helped the company sell off assets to fund litigation- and spill-related costs. [Am Law Daily]

* According to HBR Consulting, compensation for in-house attorneys has risen over the past year — including bonuses, which went up to $62,500. Sorry, but Biglaw isn’t following suit. [Corporate Counsel]

* It’s better to leave well enough alone: Pryor Cashman was ordered to pay more than $21K in legal fees for filing a frivolous motion over its repeated attempts to dismiss a case. [New York Law Journal]

* Judge Susan McDunn, who claimed that her “life [was] being ruined” by the secret lawsuits of many powerful Chicagoans, has resigned. Looks like her $182K salary wasn’t enough to buy crazy pills. [Chicago Tribune]

* James T. Hayes Jr., the ICE agent who accused his superior of subjecting male employees to her “sexually offensive behavior,” settled his discrimination lawsuit against the government for $175,000. [Washington Post]

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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I have borrowed the Boy Scout motto because I am involved in a complex cross-border transaction. Yeah, I am not kidding. I am using today’s column to point up the importance of in-house counsel being involved in a difficult deal as close to inception as possible.

Usually, the field calls when there is an approval needed for some non-standard language, or a review of a legal concept is required. At this stage in a deal, the parties are well on their way to completion, and some legal issue has arisen. But, in a complex global agreement, there are numerous variables that one must remain on top of from the start. Foremost is an understanding of the deal itself. A very close second is an understanding of what exactly the Customer is expecting, having awarded an RFP to your company.

RFPs are quirky animals, rife with opportunity for miscommunication or differing interpretations of answers. The field has prepared its response in reaction to the knowledge that several competitors are bidding on the same deal. And we all know that field ops are known for their lack of puffery and straight arrow responses to questions like, “Can you deliver X in Dubai on a single day’s notice?” Not to denigrate field ops, but the answers are always, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes,” setting the Customer’s expectation at such a high level, that when it comes time to actually negotiate Ts and Cs, you, in-house lawyer-person, are going out to some very hungry wolves….

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An old Arab proverb says that there are four types of men:

“He who knows not and knows not he knows not; he is a fool — shun him.

He who knows not and knows he knows not; he is simple — teach him.

He who knows and knows not he knows; he is asleep — wake him.

And he who knows and knows he knows; . . .

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Just try telling him to put out his smokes. Not gonna happen.

* You can take our lives, but you can never take our freedom to slowly take our own lives by smoking cigarettes in public! [U.S. Eighth Circuit / FindLaw]

* Some humorously sketchy legal advice, courtesy of Reddit. [Associate's Mind]

* A Russian in-house attorney got dumped and then allegedly went to work and shot seven people. [ABA Journal]

* L.A. County voted to force porn stars to wear condoms during shoots. In other news, the entire porn industry packed up yesterday and moved to… somewhere outside L.A. County. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Dean Boland, one of Paul Ceglia’s ex-lawyers, just lost an appeal of a $300K judgment after he allegedly manipulated “photos that depicted minors engaged in sex acts.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Elie says: You’d think that covering up your own extra-marital affairs would be part of the CIA Director entrance exam. [New York Times]

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