In-House Counsel

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pinning Your Partners: 3 Ideas For Ensuring That Your Firm Treats You Fairly”

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. . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “On Beheadings, Shootings, And ‘The Book Of Mormon’”


Is the Supreme Court ready for its close-up?

* Most Americans want Supreme Court proceedings on video. Because C-SPAN is so popular. [Legal Times]

* It was bound to happen at some point. Eastern District of Louisiana Judge Martin Feldman, who you might remember from lifting the Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium while holding thousands in oil drilling assets (which he sold the morning that he issued his decision), became the first judge since Windsor to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage as constitutional. [National Law Journal]

* Need white-collar representation? Milbank has Apps for that. Specifically, Antonia Apps, the federal prosecutor who took a leading role in the SAC Capital Advisors insider trading case, is decamping to Milbank. [Reuters]

* “What’s it like to be the lawyer for Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones? Depends if you’re winning.” I don’t know about that, Jerry Jones seems to be getting pretty used to accepting failure. [Dallas Business Journal]

* Gibson Dunn has left New York’s teacher tenure battle, leaving the job of gutting public education in the state to Kirkland & Ellis. [New York Law Journal]

* A professor carrying a concealed handgun shot himself in the foot. But remember the answer to school shootings is making sure all the teachers are armed. [TaxProf Blog]

* More Squire Patton Boggs defections: At least a dozen members of the IP group have bolted the newly-merged firm to open a D.C. office for Porzio, Bromberg & Newman. [Washington Post]

Burger King bounty for Biglaw.

* Judge Posner dished out a whole lot of benchslaps at yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments over Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on same-sex marriage. [BuzzFeed]

* Major U.S. and Canadian law firms chow down on Burger King’s whopper of a deal with Tim Hortons. [Am Law Daily]

* A recent Delaware court ruling on attorney-client privilege might allow in-house lawyers to speak more freely about wrongdoing at their companies, according to Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon. [DealBook / New York Times]

* The corruption trial of former Virginia governor continues; yesterday Bob McDonnell’s sister took the stand. [Washington Post]

* A favorable evidentiary ruling for Aaron Hernandez. [Fox Sports]

* And good news for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, the two law professors running for governor and lieutenant governor of New York: the Times dissed their opponent, Andrew Cuomo, with a non-endorsement. [New York Times]

* I recently spoke with one of my cousins Joao Atienza of the Cebu Sun Star, about Above the Law and the world of legal blogging. [Cebu Sun Star]

For months, we talked to counsel about our prospects in the case. He was sanguine:

“There’s nothing to worry about here. The plaintiff put a huge number in its prayer for relief, but you can’t possibly lose that much. Plaintiff’s liability case is thin, and the damages are inflated. You’ll probably win. If you lose, you’d lose no more than $1 million on an average day. On the worst day known to man, you can’t even theoretically lose more than $5 million. I wouldn’t offer more than a couple hundred grand to settle.”

A few months before trial, we ask counsel to put some skin in the game: “It’ll be expensive to try this case, and you feel good about our prospects. We’d like you to propose an alternative fee agreement that aligns your interests with ours. We’d like to pay you less than your ordinary hourly rates in the months leading up to trial, but we’ll give you a success fee if we win. Please think about it, and let us know if you have any ideas.”

A couple of weeks pass, as counsel discusses the case with his firm’s “senior management.” When the alternative fee proposal arrives, the goalposts have miraculously moved! In the course of just two uneventful weeks, our prospects for success have changed entirely!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Mirabile Dictu! Alternative Fee Proposals That Move Goalposts!”

When you work at a law firm, you must actually solve problems.

If you’re paid to win a case, you must identify the route to victory and develop the facts that take you there. (“They don’t pay us $15 a minute to lose.”) If you’re arguing an appeal, you must anticipate every possible question and figure out a persuasive answer to it.

There’s no place to hide and no one to whom you can push hard issues.

Not so in a corporation: If an issue is insoluble, just send it to the law department! That puts the matter to rest, and you didn’t have to figure out the answer!

Remarkably, I’ve seen this solution proposed not just by folks who work in-house, but by outside counsel, too . . . .

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‘Hmm, do I really need a JD/MBA?’

* “I’m 98, and I don’t want to depart this world with this thing hanging over me.” Miriam Moskowitz was convicted more than 60 years ago, and now Baker Botts is trying to help clear her name before she dies. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “Get a lawyer, you know how this works.” Boston Scientific’s chief counsel was killed earlier this week, and police think that they may have identified a suspect — her his former flame — in the brutal murder. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

* According to a recent study, California’s affirmative action ban has done some damage to minority admissions rates at both Berkeley Law and UCLA Law, and now things like this happen to their minority students. It’s quite sad. [Daily Californian]

* The ABA has delayed taking action on Concordia Law’s bid for accreditation, and instead appointed a fact-finder. We’ll help you with this fact of the day: we don’t need more law schools. [National Law Journal]

* If you’re thinking about signing up for a JD/MBA, then congratulations, at least one of those degrees may prove to be useful to you in some way, someday. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

As I promised in my last post, we’ll take a look at the “mindfulness” trend and see how it can help us to become better-looking lawyers. I mean, better lawyers. What is mindfulness? According to Jeena Cho, over at The Anxious Lawyer, mindfulness is “paying attention to each moment without preference or judgment.”

Jeena points out that the law practice involves constant stress, distractions, mental juggling, and multi-tasking. Our minds are integral to our careers, yet “we rarely think about maintaining a healthy, happy mind. Mindfulness meditation trains the mind just like exercise trains the body.”

That’s what Jeena said. But what I actually heard was: “You too can become a Jedi Master, young Padawan….”

What’s so great about mindfulness? According to Jeena, mindfulness can have lots of physical and mental benefits. For example, it can increase your ability to cope with stressful or painful situations, decrease negative physical and psychological symptoms, improve self-esteem, increase energy, and improve pain levels. And more.

Well, that’s a pretty cool list. I asked her whether it could also make me fabulously wealthy, or let me retire early, or at least help me to figure out how to deal with that pesky Naboo royal cruiser that’s been flying around my yard lately…?

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A full house for last week’s in-house counsel panel at Betterment.

Last week, Betterment and Above the Law hosted a great panel discussion about working as an in-house lawyer at a relatively young company. The event, hosted at Betterment’s spacious and airy offices in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, drew a standing-room-only crowd of around 200 people.

How can you get a job as an in-house lawyer for a startup? And what’s life like once you’re there?

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