In-House Counsel

As we mentioned yesterday in Morning Docket, Judge Marcia Gail Cooke (S.D. Fla.) recently issued an omnibus order on multiple motions for sanctions in the high-profile case of Coquina Investments v. TD Bank. The plaintiff, Coquina Investments, moved for sanctions related to various alleged discovery violations.

At a contempt hearing held back in May, Judge Cooke heard testimony from employees of TD Bank and current and former lawyers from Greenberg Traurig, which previously represented the bank. She took the matter under advisement — but not before saying things like, “It is hard for me to describe in words the difficulty throughout this trial related to documents and discovery.”

Now Her Honor has ruled. What did she decide?

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* Dewey know why the deadline to sign up for D&L’s proposed “clawback” settlement for former partners has been pushed back again? This time, the liability release is at issue. [WSJ Law Blog]

* In Pennsylvania, there’s been a spurt of lateral movement from people leaving in-house positions for law firms. Memo to laterals: you’re doing it wrong. No really, you are. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

* The Senate confirmed four nominees to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, but they won’t be able to do much because they don’t have a chairman. Oh, government. [National Law Journal]

* Here’s a list of gunnerific tips for a successful first semester of law school. Too bad it’s missing the most important tip of all: read Above the Law daily. [Law School Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* With drinks flowing and asses shaking, Rick’s Cabaret can do no wrong — except when someone dies. The club’s drink-sales policy is currently the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. [Houston Chronicle]

* Chris Danzig will be attending and live tweeting the Apple v. Samsung trial today. Follow him! [Twitter]

Quick! I’m an in-house lawyer! How are my legal skills?

Admit it: You just thought to yourself, “So-so. The guy couldn’t hack it at a law firm and wanted a 9 to 5 lifestyle, so he took his mediocre skills and moved in-house. I’ll try not to be transparently condescending when I talk to him on the phone.”

I believed that, too, until I went in-house. (That was a joke. How do you put a smiley face on a blog post?)

A moment’s thought reveals that I’m a bundle of legal prejudices, and I suspected that others were, too. So I did a Rorschach test of some lawyer-friends. I named categories of lawyers, and I asked my friends to give their immediate reactions to those categories.

So what are our legal prejudices?

Quick! I’m a partner at a big firm! What do you think of me?

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You gotta love the reviewer who wrote of my new Inside Straight book: “What John Updike was to the suburbs, Herrmann is to the legal sector.”

Maybe you have to question her sanity, too, but you gotta love her.

Enough of that. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

Many lawyers at firms believe that in-house life is like the Elysian Fields — where “life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain.” And, in some ways, those perceptions are right.

In one sense, however, the outside lawyer has it easy. He tells inside counsel: “The rule is X. Have everyone do X, and you will have complied with the law.” And then he goes back to reading cases.

The in-house lawyer is left with the hard part: How the heck do I get 100,000 employees, in 150 countries around the world, to do X?

In-house lawyers are often asked to operationalize rules, and it’s not always easy . . .

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I have Irish Alzheimer’s; I forget everything but my grudges. As I read about the latest round of bar study and exams, I think back on my job interviews over the years. I cannot shake the remembrances of some of my more outstanding successes and failures.

There was the major domo partner at an unnamed firm (located in the Battery which had a really salacious sex harassment fiasco some time ago) who looked at the title of my journal piece and stated, “You know, there’s no such word as ‘normalization.’” Now, I could have informed this pompous ass that maybe in the Kissinger era there was no such word, but, I wanted a gig. So, I put the tail between my legs and meekly said that I would have to look into that.

There was an associate from a since disappointingly merged firm from Midtown who “took a call” during our OCI, hung up, and informed me that he’d just closed a multi-million dollar deal. I was totally unprepared for dealing with such a tool, but again, I wanted a gig. So, I said something to the effect of “congratulations.”

Finally, there was the bow-tie wearing fop with shoulder length hair from the firm with four names, who cradled his fingers under his dimpled chin, shook his mane and said, “Why would XXXX want to hire you?” Unprepared to deal with such an insipid question, I came up with an equally insipid answer.

And just so I don’t let the in-house interviewers off the hook, there were some real winners in my last search. Since I am heavily involved in the ACC and other ventures, however, it’s best not to describe anecdotes. Let’s just say that, contrary to the viral videos, it does not “always get better”…

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Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, they are collected here.

I did not know what to expect. Almost a month had passed since my initial invitation for a senior Biglaw personality to contact me, and someone had. After a bit of back-and-forth regarding confidentiality and logistics, we had arranged to meet. Even though I had intended to script out questions, my natural inclination to wing it took over. I had done some research on my subject (web bio, history of his firm, etc.), but was otherwise unsure of how things were going to go. My subject is not actively practicing anymore (and I would love to hear from an high-level “Insider” currently working in-house or in Biglaw), but he was able to give me both historical perspective and sagacious insight into how Biglaw has become what it is, and what it can do to meet the challenges ahead.

The setting of our meeting turned out to be very apropos of the glimpse into Biglaw history that I was going to receive. The wood paneling, uniformed attendants, and heavy furniture all but sang “elite,” and reflected the long traditions of the institution whose name was on the door. Considering I was meeting with a former leading partner at a white-shoe firm, it seemed an appropriate location. His suggestion, not mine of course. I had been there before, for a firm event back when I was an associate, but the mood this time was different, because the assumption underlying this meeting was that I, as a current Biglaw partner, belonged in some measure to this world. Debatable, but I definitely felt more comfortable than on my previous visit as a guest. I was aware throughout that we were literally sitting in the shadows of many Biglaw offices, and at the same time, that we were mere blocks from the place where my late grandfather (who came to America as a refugee) had made his living.

How did our meeting go?

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In Proof of an External World, G. E. Moore famously defended the concept of certainty: Moore could put his hand in front of his face and say (with certainty): “Here is a hand.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein disagreed. Wittgenstein was uncertain whether he knew — with certainty — that the hand in front of his face actually existed. The first sentence of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty reads: “If you do know that here is one hand, we’ll grant you all the rest.”

(Hah! You thought you came to Above the Law to read about bonuses and pictures of naked judges. It turns out that we’re epistemology through and through. But I digress.)

On three recent occasions, I’ve heard (or heard of) people asking, “Are you sure?”

I’m with Wittgenstein on this one: I can’t even tell you that “this is my hand,” for heaven’s sake; how dare you ask if I’m sure about a legal judgment?

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Nothing good will come of this.

* Apple is considering digging its greasy Gorilla Glass hands into Twitter. How long until they unveil the iChirp and the iStupidDessertPic? [New York Times]

* I’m sorry your three-year-old shot you with your Glock. Perhaps the safety could be better, but perhaps you shouldn’t have left a loaded gun within reach of a toddler, either. [JD Journal]

* Mitt Romney hightailed it out of England as fast as he could. He spent Sunday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I don’t think it’s hard to guess what he was praying for. [Washington Post]

* Bad day: getting your hand bitten off by an alligator. Worse day: facing charges of “unlawful feeding” of said alligator. Do I even have to say this happened in Florida? [ABC News]

* In continuing stupid Olympic news, NBC has caught a bunch of flak for cutting a tribute to victims of terror attacks from its U.S. broadcast. Apparently the segment wasn’t “tailored for a U.S. audience.” Well, neither is Mr. Bean. And we handled that fine, right? [Gawker]

* I just got back from Alaska. I’m so excited to go back indoors and get back to my desk after flying around mountains and looking at stupid, ugly glaciers for a week. #Sarcasm. [Twitter]

Last month, a group named Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) announced a study in which they identified eight qualities of successful legal executives. The study found that these accomplished folks exhibited greater levels of certain traits compared to your average Executive Joe Schmoe, Esq. The results, while informative, weren’t all that surprising. (It’s cool how hindsight works that way.) There were two traits, however, that RRA zeroed in on in their write-up of the study.

One was “excitability.” Successful legal executives got frazzled about 20% less than the average legal executive and even than the average non-legal executive. The gap in excitability was even wider between Successful GC and Not-Successful GC. So all of you lawyers who have a tendency to hyperventilate over every little fire drill can do yourselves a favor and think calm thoughts when you find that your prized pen has been moved from the right side of your desk to the left.

The other trait that RRA considered noteworthy is one they referred to as “mischievousness.” Their evaluation of mischievousness, however, is really just a brilliant scam….

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We’ve done some hiring recently, and people seem to have three types of résumés.

Some résumés start with an “Executive Summary” that consists largely of the applicant explaining that the applicant believes that he (or she) is a great guy (or gal). I’m not quite sure how that distinguishes the applicant from the seven billion other folks who share this planet with us:

“A fast-paced, fast-track, high-falutin’ individual with exceptional interpersonal, communication, and persuasive skills, as well as boyish good looks and a toothy grin; who leads by example and coaches and develops others to deliver high performance; blah, blah, blah.”

To my eye, this is “telling, not showing.” You think you’re great? Wonderful. But, other than your own say-so, is there anything about you that might objectively indicate that you’re correct? Have you ever, for example, achieved something that’s worth talking about? If so, perhaps your résumé should find an excuse to lead with that.

Other résumés also start with an “Executive Summary,” but of a different type . . .

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