In-House Counsel

* “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]

Everyone has been mistreated — by bureaucratic institutions, unhelpful sales people, or phone systems that make you press ten buttons only to be left on hold for half an hour.

Given how awful the “usual” service is, it’s really not that hard to impress people with the quality of service that you provide. But, remarkably, lawyers (and others) screw this up all the time.

Suppose (to recount an incident I heard about recently) you’re asked to handle a trivial legal issue at a time when you’re swamped with other stuff. You are able to help; you are simply unable to help today. Consider two ways of handling this: First, silently ignore the issue for several days until you have time, and then deal with it. Second, tell the client that you’re currently swamped, but that you’ve received the request and your best guess is that you’ll handle the matter, say, early next week. If you’ve misunderstood, and this is an emergency, the client should let you know, so you can move this task up in the queue.

This should be an easy choice, shouldn’t it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Being Responsive”

Nothing pisses off a lawyer more than uncertainty. Uncertainty gives rise to the risk of undermining the facade of perfect knowledge that attorneys prefer to convey to their clients. Given this character trait, it’s no surprise that the collective white-collar and corporate counsel community is freaking the hell out about every scrap of information it can glean from the Justice Department about its new Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement policy.

So what exactly has these observant lawyers in a tizzy?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reading Tea Leaves: Defense Bar Freaking Out About the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”

Hello readers! This post marks the one-year anniversary of my writing for Above The Law. **Hooray!** Whew, okay, now that all of that crazy excitement is over with, let’s move on.

Every once in a while, I meet people who ask whether there’s any value in doing a clerkship if they would eventually like to practice transactional law in-house. Like a dutiful little blogger, I consulted with several senior in-house attorneys on their thoughts about whether a clerkship is valuable for an in-house transactional practice.

The lawyers I consulted who hadn’t clerked generally saw little to no value in a clerkship with respect to an in-house transactional practice. Why spend an entire year of effort on something that’s not going to be directly applicable to your practice (and, by the way, pays diddlysquat), when you could be getting firsthand experience drafting contracts and working on deals on Day 1? Plus, it’s not like businesspeople have a clue what the difference is between a law clerk and, you know… a rock.

The attorneys who had clerked, on the other hand, saw many potential benefits….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: Should You Do A Clerkship If You Don’t Want To Practice Litigation?”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Who Represents America’s Biggest Companies?”

Here’s a sad tale that I’ve heard repeatedly recently from senior partners at major law firms.

When these partners were associates, they were superstars. They did great work, were in high demand, and sailed through the ranks.

These folks were invited into the partnership along with (or even before) their peers.

As junior partners, these folks remained superstars. Senior partners were anxious to delegate responsibility to these people, and the then-junior partners were flattered to be asked. The junior partners were doing interesting work, being paid handsomely (if not royally) for their efforts, and were contentedly busy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to retirement. My correspondents became senior partners, and this crippled them (professionally). They had aged out of utility to their firms. . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Aging Out”

Blind item: which fairly powerful, yet overly fey — and we’re talking Dana Carvey “Gay?? That’s ridiculous!!” fey — and married Biglaw partner with top school credentials, regularly double and triple bills clients?

Blind item: which Biglaw firm, when faced with a lawyer deponent from a small shop who was clearly mentally unstable, chose to do nothing, ignoring its reporting obligations?

I mention the above anecdotes because they are all true, and because they all include reportable ethical breaches. When we were inducted into the Second Department in Brooklyn, and in ethics class, our reporting obligations were hammered into us — yet, nothing is ever done. Why?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: Blind Leading the Blind”

You’ve seen it time and time again in these pages: years spent in Biglaw can lead to great excesses, and we’re not just talking about those luxurious lawyerly lairs. Biglaw veterans also go to extremes in other areas of life, including overindulgence in alcohol and violence.

Take, for example, Bryan Brooks, a former Skaddenite. After doing a four-year stint at the firm, Brooks moved in-house at American Express. It’s a good thing he chose the credit card company as his new home, because back in June 2011, Brooks had a major “don’t leave home without it” moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t his Amex card that he was worried about.

In this case, Brooks wished that he had his defense attorney’s phone number on hand, because he was accused of slashing a bar patron’s face with the classiest weapon of all: a broken champagne flute….

An important UPDATE — namely, Brooks’s vindication at trial — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Former Skadden Associate’s Alleged Weapon of Choice? A Broken Champagne Flute”

I was recently asked to write an article about the future of Biglaw. (That’s one of the benefits of writing this column: Writing yields more opportunities to write. Like first prize at the pie-eating contest.)

I naturally asked some Biglaw acquaintances what they saw in their firms’ futures, in an effort to generate some grist for the article’s mill. (Given that I occasionally write in unbelievably awkward, and arguably unintelligible, mixed metaphors — such as “grist for the article’s mill” — it’s a wonder that Lat even permits me to continue writing this column, let alone that others solicit me to write in other fora. But that’s neither here nor there.)

What do my Biglaw lunch dates (and others whom I pester) say about their futures? They say many things, but one common refrain about the future of Biglaw is “consolidation. Big law firms will continue to merge, and only the biggest will thrive.” When I ask why firms will feel compelled to grow, folks often say: “Clients insist on it. Clients want one-stop shopping.”

What clients? Any real ones, or just theoretical ones? I, at least, don’t insist on one-stop shopping. . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Do Clients Insist On One-Stop Shopping?”

If you took a poll in which you had to answer how good a lawyer you are, how would you rank yourself — below average, average, or above average? With the “illusory superiority” phenomenon at work, more than 50% of you would respond that you’re an above average lawyer. Now, you don’t have to be good at math to figure out that something’s not quite right here.

Because I care about my ATL readers, I’ve decided to make it my mission in this post to enlighten those of you below average lawyers as to your not-so-great-as-you-think-ness. The key to getting around illusory superiority is to not rely on your own fallible opinion of yourself. Instead, look to other more objective indications of your inferiority.

What are some signs that you may be a below average lawyer?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: How Do You Know If You’re A Bad Lawyer?”

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