In-House Counsel

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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There have lately been a flurry of articles, blog columns, and opinions strewn about whether a woman can have a baby and run a corporation. Filtered down to a finer point, especially relevant to this site, is whether lawyers can have it all. The answer, in my opinion, is no. A distilled or altered sense of “all” perhaps, but truly having it all, where you commit fully to your work and home life? Not so much. And to commit the foul of using lawyer “weasel words” — it depends.

When I am asked for advice from folks who read this column, or others practicing law or about to, I usually begin by assessing where that person is in life….

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Here’s something that never crossed my mind before I moved in-house, but it affects both the nature of in-house legal jobs and outside counsel’s relationship with in-house lawyers.

ParentCo has three business units: Gadgets, Widgets, and Muppets.

ParentCo will have a general counsel. Beyond that, however, ParentCo’s Law Department could be set up in one of two ways: (1) there may be three lawyers, one of whom is the chief counsel for Gadgets, one for Widgets, and one for Muppets, or (2) ParentCo may have a litigation counsel, an M&A counsel, and a contracts counsel, each of whom support all three business units.

In the first situation, the lawyers for the business units are generalists, helping their specific business units with whatever legal matters arise. In the second situation, the lawyers are substantive experts, helping all three business units with matters that fall into the lawyers’ areas of expertise. An in-house lawyer’s work environment turns in part on which structure the corporation’s law department uses, and outside counsel can better serve clients if counsel know how a law department is organized….

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Lawyers tend to overindulge in the finer things in life — things like designer clothes, fast cars, and luxurious lawyerly lairs. Unfortunately, lawyers also tend to overindulge in alcohol. In fact, according to the ABA, about 13 percent of lawyers qualify as alcoholics. Keeping that in mind, practicing law may be fine preparation for a new career in the wine bar business.

Meet Elizabeth Banker. This former in-house lawyer for Yahoo! and current counsel at ZwillGen is putting her legal career aside to follow something she’s been passionate about since her college days: wine. (Despite sharing a surname, apparently she’s not a fan of Banker’s Club vodka.)

Back in the day, Banker drank gallon-sized jugs of Chablis. Since then, her “tastes have evolved,” and now she’s more of a high-class sommelier. Let’s learn more about Banker’s new business, and find out when opening day will be….

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The case had been tried (to a judge, in a country outside the United States) in 2008.

The potential exposure was, let’s say, material.

One can’t exactly wait with bated breath for four years, but one can be keenly interested in a judge’s decision.

So one can be slightly disappointed when the “re” line of an email from outside counsel reads (in its entirety): “Statement of Decision in BigCo v. YourCo.”

Did we win? No news yet.

Surely the news is just a click away.

But one could be a tad frustrated to read the contents of the email message that followed . . .

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Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, is pregnant. And she took the job knowing she was pregnant. And the board hired her with full knowledge that she is pregnant. Holy hell, what is the world coming to? Read the following:

“She joins a small-but-growing group of women leading major public companies in the U.S., pushing the number to 20 female CEOs out of 500, or 4%. However, she sets a precedent as the first woman to ever take the top position while pregnant. Will having her first baby impact her performance or perception as the strong leader that Yahoo desperately needs?” -Forbes.com, July 17, 2012.

Are you kidding me right now? Let’s play Mad-Libs and change some of the words in that paragraph to “first black woman” and “[w]ill being black impact her performance or perception.” Is the new paragraph more or less offensive? I would argue that both are disgusting….

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Last year, all things considered, wasn’t a bad year for Biglaw. The law firms of the Am Law 100, for example, experienced decent growth. In 2011, for the Am Law 100 as a whole, gross revenue grew by 5.3 percent, revenue per lawyer grew by 1.9 percent, and profits per partner grew by 3 percent. It was a perfectly fine year for partners.

How did their counterparts on the corporate side fare? Alas, not as well, according to Corporate Counsel’s latest compensation survey of the nation’s general counsel. Base pay for GCs in the survey declined by 1.8 percent, to an average of $611,411. Bonuses and nonequity incentive pay slid by an even larger number, 7.7 percent, to an average of $1,125,458. Meanwhile, in terms of non-cash compensation, the average stock award fell by 10.8 percent, to $1,426,325, and the average stock option award dropped by a whopping 18.7 percent, to $732,453.

These are just the top-line figures — which, of course, conceal a lot of individual variability. Let’s take a look at some specific names and numbers, as well as the top ten highest-paid general counsel….

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* I’m not sure why Romney won’t just say that he lied to the SEC about when he left Bain. Lying to the SEC is just good business. Lying to the American people is something that politicians are only supposed to do for sex. [Wonkblog / Washington Post]

* Character and fitness can be a surprisingly tough hurdle, so I’ve been told. [The Toronto Star]

* Here are the top law faculties by scholarship. I’d bet this list and the list for top law faculties by salary are pretty similar. [Brian Leiter's Law School Reports]

* One of our favorite lawyers, renowned litigator Ed Hayes, gets another profile — a dandy profile this time. [The Dandy Portraits]

* This is a highlight reel of terrible lawyer ads. [Strategist via Findlaw]

* Man with the largest penis gets frisked by TSA. When asked to comment, Sam said, “This is how we keep motherf***in snakes off the motherf***in planes.” [Hufffington Post]

* Congratulations to Michael Fricklas, the general counsel of Viacom, on receiving this year’s Raising the Bar Award from the Hollywood Reporter. [Hollywood Reporter]

My mother used to tell me: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Recently, I had an experience with a UK law firm that could have used a conversation with Mom.

The law firm provided legal advice. Moments later, the firm violated its own advice. I’m sure this happens all the time, but rarely is the offense so vivid.

The substantive advice arises out of the new UK Bribery Act, which UK law firms have been trumpeting as a threat to every corporation everywhere (naturally compelling all corporations to hire outside UK counsel). In the words of one law firm’s brochure: “[I]f a Dutch company has a UK branch and engages in bribery in an Asian or African country, the Dutch company will be criminally liable in the UK under the new law and can be prosecuted in the UK.”

Does that get your attention? It sure got mine . . .

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Based on questions that I’ve been getting during the past few months through this blog and elsewhere, I’m realizing that a lot of attorneys and attorneys-to-be who don’t know about some of the very basic characteristics of in-house legal work. Stuff that I forget isn’t necessarily obvious until after some time has passed (like how only after you’ve graduated from law school do you realize that in order to make a profit off your casebooks, you need to sell them before the next edition has been released — so basically within 20 minutes of purchasing them).

Instead of having to continue explaining the fundamentals of in-house work again and again to each of these people individually, I realized I can make use of this newfangled innovation called le blog for summarizing some of that basic information. That way, when people ask me all of those questions, I can just refer them here. It only took me ten months to figure this out. I am so SMRT.

So off we go. First, in-house hours and pay….

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