Back in April 2010, we bestowed Lawyer of the Day honors upon Jonathan Moss, former in-house counsel to Gucci. There was a question, however, as to how much of a “lawyer” Moss was.
During his seven years working at the luxury fashion house, Moss did not have an active law license: he was a graduate of Fordham Law and a member of the California bar, but with “inactive” status. As a result, during the discovery process in some trademark litigation, opposing counsel from Guess? challenged Gucci’s assertion of attorney-client privilege over communications to and from Moss. The reasoning: because Moss wasn’t entitled to practice law in any jurisdiction, due to his inactive status with the California bar, the attorney-client privilege did not extend to communications with him.
A federal magistrate judge sided with Guess, concluding that Gucci’s communications with Moss weren’t privileged — and subject to disclosure. Yikes. After conducting an investigation that confirmed Moss’s inactive bar status, Gucci fired him in March 2010.
But now a federal district judge — Judge Shira Scheindlin, that delicious judicial diva of Zubulake fame — has set aside the magistrate’s order, and granted Gucci’s motion for a protective order….
Here’s an issue that outside counsel never think about, but that matters intensely to in-house counsel: How should you charge business units for litigation losses?
For some types of cases, this poses no problem at all. If a company manufactures a prescription drug and gets named in product liability cases involving that drug, it’s pretty easy to figure out which business unit to charge for resulting judgments. (At least I assume that’s true. Perhaps some reader who works in-house at a drug company can correct me if I’m mistaken.)
But think about negligence cases in the context of a service business. At first blush, charging for litigation losses seems pretty easy: The business unit that was negligent and caused the loss should be charged for any resulting judgment.
If only it were so clear. Think about the complexities here: Some clown at the business unit screws up in 2005. The company is named in a lawsuit that’s filed in 2007. The clown changes jobs and leaves the company in 2008. The lawsuit results in a $10 million judgment in 2010. How do you account for that $10 million charge internally?
Also, in case you missed them because of the holiday break, be sure to check out his recent posts on in-house compensation and bonuses.
First, a story. Then, my point.
(If I promise a point at the end, maybe you’ll persevere through the story.)
When I was a partner at a large law firm, sending out bills, I took the job seriously. I sat in a coffee shop one Sunday afternoon each month and went through every !*@!! time entry in every bill to be sure that (1) I could understand what task the lawyer had performed and (2) the time spent was not disproportionate to the work performed. Only then would I approve the bill.
Editing bills is like torture. In fact, strike the “like.” This is torture. At the end of three or four hours of editing bills, you’re ready to jam toothpicks into your eyes. So I took a lesson from Tom Sawyer and whitewashing fences: I conned my teenage son into thinking that editing bills was a very important job. He bit! (Other than falling for this, the kid is actually pretty smart.) During Jeremy’s sophomore through senior years of high school, he and I did some father-son bonding on the third Sunday of every month at the local coffee shop. I bought the kid a caramel frappuccino (“venti” if we were doing north of 500 grand in bills; otherwise, grande; always with whipped cream). He took half the stack of bills; I took the other half; we edited. (Stay calm. I didn’t charge clients even for my own time spent doing this, let alone the kid’s. This was on the up and up.)
If you hate your job, then no one can pay you enough to make going to work every day worthwhile. And if you love your job, you won’t be sitting around fretting about your pay. I understand that this is America and all that, but within very broad limits, you’re nuts to accept one job over another because of a small difference in compensation.
(I understand that you may be trapped in a job, because of student loans, or kids in college, or the like. I understand; trapped is trapped. And I understand that I personally have been awfully lucky, because I’ve never had to worry about finding money to pay next month’s rent, so I speak from a particular point of view. Despite all that, I stand by what I said — if job A and job B are meaningfully different from each other in ways that matter to you, and you’re not trapped, you’re nuts to take one job over the other just to earn a few extra grand each year. Period.)
Naturally, since I’m not interested in the subject, you can guess the question I’ve been asked most often since Above the Law anointed me an in-house counsel guru:
How does in-house compensation work, and what questions should I ask about compensation if I’m interviewing for an in-house job?
As I alluded to last week, today I was supposed to be getting some action down in sunny Florida. Alas, thanks to the massive blizzard that hit the East Coast last night, I’m stuck in my Manhattan apartment — after three consecutive flights got canceled on me.
I’m grumpy, but understanding (and enjoying a Glee marathon — finishing up season one). The snowstorm was epic, after all. It’s over now, but the effects linger.
Correction: The preceding sentence is not just false, but unintelligible.
Several folks have told me that a good way to juice readership of this column would be to publish a salacious post about bonuses paid to in-house corporate counsel, so readers could complain about how one corporation is stingy and another generous, or how corporations pay bigger or smaller bonuses than law firms. But I can’t write that post.
The folks who sell blogging platforms to lawyers say that blogging is the route to riches. But bloggers themselves are far less certain whether blogging actually generates business. What’s the truth?
Let me start with my personal experience; I’ll conclude with a thesis. The personal experience is just the facts — what I did as a blogger, how successful the blog was, and how, if at all, I profited from the experience. (I’ve previously recited parts of this story in both the print media and elsewhere. I’ll try to add a few new thoughts here.)
What did I do as a blogger? For three years — from October 2006 through December 2009 — while I was a partner at Jones Day, I co-hosted the Drug and Device Law Blog with Jim Beck, of Dechert. We wrote almost exclusively about the defense of pharmaceutical and medical device product liability cases. We affirmatively chose to have the blog co-hosted by partners at two different firms, for two reasons….
Look: If Lat and Mystal are silly enough to let me write a column about in-house lawyers when I’ve worked in-house for just ten months, then surely I can reminisce about blogging at Above the Law after just four weeks on the job. Fair is fair, guys.
So here are three thoughts, after four weeks of typing. First:
On November 15, Lat published the post announcing that my column would start in three days. Lat wrote the post; I had nothing to do with it. He promptly sent me a link to that post, telling me that we were up. I hung up the phone after finishing a business call and clicked on the link, viewing the post within ten minutes of its publication. Incredibly, the “commenters” were already out in force.
I scrolled through the comments and immediately learned that I’m (1) homophobic, (2) a failure in Big Law, (3) desperate for money, and (4) ugly.
Before I’d written a word.
Fortunately, an old friend sent me an e-mail providing emotional support: “Hey, Mark, you’re not homophobic.”
This post is a two-fer: It both suggests a way for outside lawyers to develop business more effectively and offers a tip to in-house counsel to protect their legal departments. (I bet you can hardly wait.)
First, the business development tip.
Outside lawyers often ask whether in-house lawyers are annoyed or impressed by the brochures that firms mail (or e-mail) to clients and prospective clients. I, at least, am not annoyed to receive those things. It’s awfully easy to delete things unread, so they don’t exactly impose a burden on me.
But am I impressed by the brochures? Obviously not; that’s why I now typically delete them unread.
What’s unimpressive about the brochures? Let me count the things….
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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