In-House Counsel

women-lawyers

Over three days during September 17-19, InsideCounsel magazine succeeded where others have not. They created a national forum to facilitate women-to-women exchange on current legal issues. This year’s conference was the second annual meeting to bring together talented women attorneys. As part of the process, InsideCounsel invited nationally-recognized women who are General Counsel for Fortune 500 companies and attracted the best and brightest among in-house attorneys around the world. One speakers’ panel shared their experiences for getting to the GC leadership positions where they are today, and the advice is refreshingly candid.

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How do you think we pick lawyers to defend us in litigation?

Judging from some of the emails I get, this is the picture in your mind’s eye:

“Hey, boss, we just got sued in New York. We’ll have to defend ourselves.”

“Shoot! New York City! Do they have any lawyers there?”

“Damned if I know. Lemme grab the New York City phone directory and take a look.”

An hour later:

“Good news, boss. There’re a whole gaggle of lawyers in New York. I think we should hire Bigg & Mediocre.”

“Why’s that?”

“They have an 800 number, so we’ll save some money. And they have a whole bunch of lawyers; one of ‘em probably knows what this ‘RICO’ thing stands for. And their website is really fancy; you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Great! Call that 800 number and ask them to connect you to a litigator.”

If that’s what corporations are doing, then at least you know how to develop business . . . .

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Corporate Counsel just released its annual list of the law firms that Fortune 500 companies utilize as outside counsel (as noted in Morning Docket). Not surprisingly, the nation’s biggest corporations turn to some of the biggest names in Biglaw for legal services.

But as we noted last year, the most-mentioned firms aren’t necessarily the most prestigious or the most profitable. The rankings prioritize quantity, and they’re dominated by firms that excel in a particular practice area. See if you can guess which one….

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* In light of today’s vote on Scottish independence, here’s an article on the opportunities for the legal industry if Scotland breaks free. [Business For Scotland]

* What are the biggest pet peeves of corporate counsel. Surprise, surprise, billing “surprises” makes the list. [ALM]

* Attorney General Holder is offering bigger payouts to Wall Street whistleblowers. Start saving your emails now you low-level finance folks! [Legal Times]

* Later today, Baker Hostetler’s John Moscow will try to convince Judge Griesa that he shouldn’t be disqualified for breaching the confidentiality of a prior client. [Law Blog / Wall Street Journal]

* As if Bingham didn’t have enough trouble, Akin Gump swept in and poached a gaggle of lawyers in Europe (as some previously predicted). [Law360]

* Skadden is really good at inversions. Elie would like to thank them for their work undermining American society. [The Am Law Daily]

* Yale Law is teaching students basic financial literacy. While some are hailing this program, my question is: how are kids getting to 20-something without learning this stuff already? [Yale Daily News]

Wonder what it’s like to be the only lawyer at a company? I certainly do. Especially on those dark, brooding, gloomy workdays involving the gnashing of teeth…let’s not go there. There’s not a lot of data about how many of these solo attorneys are out there (read: that’s not available for free on Google). But back in 2011, the Association of Corporate Counsel, Southern California Chapter, did take an in-house compensation survey, which indicated that nearly 30% of their membership is solo in-house counsel.

Inquiring minds wanted to know more. So I interviewed five attorneys whose jobs are to be the lonely voices of legal reason at their companies. They work in the following industries: industries consumer goods, supermarket, biotech, commercial interior design, and telecom.

Three of these lawyers found their jobs using traditional methods — one went through a recruiter, the second applied through an online job site, and the third went to work for a client of his law firm…

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In the not-so-new normal, clients continue to refuse to pay full freight for inexperienced first-year attorneys to work on their legal matters — or, as one law firm recently mused, “client demand for first year associates has declined.”

What’s a Biglaw firm to do?

It seems that one firm has found a pretty good solution to this problem: make someone else hire those lawyers to work as junior in-house lawyers, and then bring them into the fold as associates after they’ve gained some real-world experience.

Which Biglaw firm has teamed up with a big bank — the biggest bank in the U.S. — for this program?

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Jodi Arias says, ‘You could own these!’

* If you want to know why Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s summer was “really not fun,” it’s because she spent it reading a book about Justice Antonin Scalia and a book written by Justice John Paul Stevens. [Washington Whispers / U.S. News & World Report]

* “There is less money to pay everybody.” Corporations are shifting more and more of their legal work to their in-house lawyers, and some law firms — especially smaller ones — are feeling the financial squeeze. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you’ve wanted to know what federal judges discuss during their bathroom breaks, stop wondering, because it’s not that exciting. All they talk about is their “stupid little trials,” and get overheard by jurors and forced into disclosures. [New York Daily News]

* Dewey know why the former leaders of this failed firm want their criminal indictment dismissed? It’s because the case is allegedly based on a “flagrant misunderstanding of the law.” [New York Law Journal]

* If you want to own a “piece of history,” Jodi Arias is auctioning off the glasses she wore during the first phase of her murder trial. She intends to donate the proceeds of the sale to (her own?) charity. [Daily Mail]

We all dream of a world in which collegiality matters.

Partners at law firms are . . . well . . . partners. They look out for each other. They build each other’s practices. They work for the common good.

Perhaps that firm exists. I wouldn’t know.

From my perch here — as the guy who left a Biglaw partnership for an in-house job, and on whose shoulder other Biglaw partners now routinely cry — the view is pretty ugly. (Perhaps my perspective is distorted because of an obvious bias: Partners happy with their firms don’t come wailing to me.) What I hear these days is grim: Guys are being de-equitized or made of counsel; they think they’re being underpaid; they’re concerned that they’ll be thrown under the bus if they ever lose a step.

Several recent partners’ laments prompted me to think about something that I’d never considered when I worked at a firm. (Maybe that’s because I’m one of those guys who was perfectly happy laboring for the common good. Or maybe it’s because I’m a moron.)

In any event, here’s today’s question: I want to wrestle effectively with my own law firm. I don’t want to be nasty; I just want to be sure that I have implicit power when I negotiate with the firm. I want the firm — of its own accord, without me saying a word — to treat me right. How do I wrestle my own law firm to the ground? How do I pin my partners?

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For most people, there comes a time when you realize you have gone about as far as you can go in your chosen career. It’s a jarring moment if, like many lawyers, you have always had success in school and work and imagined you can go as far as you want. Sometimes it is also called a midlife crisis.

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I’m proud to be an American. I’m ashamed to be an American. And I’m not sure what it means to be an American.

As you know, I’ve been living in London for the past two years. I’m beginning to feel like a local, but I’m still occasionally jolted by my American roots.

When have I felt proud to be an American in London? The first videotaped beheading of an American journalist by a jihadist with a British accent drew some attention over here. But I was dumbstruck to read this sentence in one of the local newspapers: “Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation.”

Viewing the video might be a criminal offense??? Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

In my mind’s eye, I see scores of college kids at Oxford and Cambridge, six drinks into the evening, saying: “Whoa! That dude got his head cut off?! We gotta Google that!”

And now they’ve committed criminal offenses?

Maybe that’s true over here in England, but I’m pretty sure we’d never stand for that in the United States. It makes me proud to be an American.

(I must say that the news of the second beheading of an American journalist dramatically changed the picture in my mind’s eye. Those college kids have now sobered up, and they’re heading off to enlist.)

So much for pride in being an American. Then that nine-year-old girl blew away her shooting instructor with an Uzi. . . .

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