In-House Counsel

Your company was just named in a new complaint, and there’s no obvious choice of counsel to defend you. What do you do?

You ask around internally to see whether any of our lawyers has worked with good counsel in the jurisdiction. Perhaps you ask a trusted outside lawyer or two for recommendations. You narrow the choices down to two or three candidates, and you decide to interview the top three firms.

This brings us to the subject of this post: What do you ask at the interviews?

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During my 25 years litigating at law firms, I fretted about two words: “winning” and “losing.” (As one old-timer put it: “They don’t pay you twelve dollars a minute to lose.”)

Now I’m in-house, and I’m still fretting about two words: “probable” and “estimable.”

What happened?

The accounting rules require corporations to take a reserve (which causes an immediate hit to revenue) when a “loss contingency” (which is accountant-speak for lawsuits, among other things) becomes probable and estimable. If it’s likely that you’re going to lose, and if you can estimate the amount (or, at least, the lower bound of the amount) of the loss, then it’s time to take a reserve.

This can make in-house life odd….

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While at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit, I attended the panel entitled “Legal Process Outsourcing and Insourcing.” As I mentioned on Twitter, when I go to conferences I enjoy attending the panels that are most likely to cause pain and suffering among junior attorneys. It’s kind of my thing.

Usually, anything involving outsourcing is a good bet to make junior attorneys scream expletives at God before drinking themselves into a stupor. But this panel was surprisingly positive about the future of Biglaw attorneys in a outsourced world — and not just the career associate types. The panelists saw a future for regular partner-track associates with dreams of a better tomorrow.

Of course, even under the rosiest of scenarios, Biglaw firms will lose money as more companies outsource, but corporate GCs don’t so much care about that….

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The information age we live in can be a blessing and a curse. Few fields demonstrate this truth more persuasively than the realm of electronic discovery.

During a panel here at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit on the theft and exfiltration of intellectual property, the panelists discussed the exponential growth in information densities, the increasing importance of IP, and the challenge that evolving technology presents to the governing legal frameworks. As one panelist noted: “Technology leaps, the law creeps.”

What does rapidly changing technology mean for the e-discovery world? And what are some considerations that in-house lawyers should keep in mind when responding to e-discovery requests?

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When is a litigator thinking most keenly about a specific witness’s testimony?

There are two days: The day you’re taking (or defending) the deposition of the witness, and the day — months or years later, if ever — when you’re examining the witness at trial. So when should you be making notes about the witness’s testimony and your reaction to it? That question answers itself: You should make quick notes of key points during the deposition, and you should write notes to yourself immediately after the deposition ends. “Immediately after”: Not later in the week; not the next morning. Now, when your brain is fully engaged.

Those notes don’t have to be comprehensive, but they have to memorialize the things that you noticed during the deposition that you’re likely to forget by either the next morning or the day, a month later, when you’re reviewing the transcript. The notes are quick and easy. Write an e-mail to yourself that says: “Today I took Smith’s deposition. These were the highlights: (1) He admitted A; (2) He denied B; remember to create some other admissible evidence on that point; (3) He evaded on C; there’s something fishy going on there; (4) Opposing counsel started interrupting when I got near D; we should press harder on that point; (5) His testimony opens up issue E; let’s do some legal research.” There might be a half dozen points; there might be a dozen. But the key is to record immediately the fleeting ideas that you had while your brain was most in gear.

During the deposition, you’re as attentive as you’ll ever be. Don’t lose the moment; capture it.

What do you use those notes for?

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Can't we all just get along?

As everyone knows, IT professionals and lawyers often want to stab each other’s faces with butter knives have a little trouble seeing eye-to-eye. Practitioners of both the law and computer sorcery tend to be headstrong and preternaturally assured that they are correct 100 percent of the time.

It only makes sense then, that several of Wednesday’s panels at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit dealt with the crucial and interdependent relationship between law dogs and mysterious IT folks. Throughout the day, discussion leaders from both sides of the aisle discussed ways to avoid (or at least mitigate) data breaches and to use technological tools to ease billing nightmares. One session was dedicated to lamenting the top ways IT staff and attorneys drive each other nuts.

For reasons why your boss isn’t thrilled about your sweet new 128 gigabyte flash drive and some classic ha-ha-lawyers-don’t-understand-technology anecdotes, keep on reading….

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We are just finishing up our first day at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit, our tech conference aimed at in-house counsel. So far it has been a great success. We’ve had no earthquakes or hurricanes — just a passing swarm of lovebugs (seriously), which are now lying dead on my balcony.

This morning, we kicked off with a keynote session from Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, the authors of Kings of Tort (affiliate link), a chronicle of one of the legal profession’s more infamous criminals. It’s actually not that specific to technology, although it does relate to the world of in-house counsel.

Keep reading for an inside look at the politically connected Southern gentleman who transformed from David to Goliath, conspired to bribe a judge, and made many an in-house lawyer’s life miserable…

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I am not a mentor!

Never have been. Never will be. Don’t care to be.

I’m a lawyer. I’m a co-worker. In some cases, I may be a friend. But I’m not a mentor; I have no time for that crap.

When I was clerking (for the Honorable Dorothy W. Nelson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit), my judge was (and remains) a delight. She was a warm, engaging person who treated everyone as an equal. She was living proof that you don’t have to give up on human kindness just because you’ve become powerful. She taught, by example, many lessons about work-life balance and the meaning of humanity.

But a mentor? They hadn’t invented the word “mentor” (at least with its current connotation) back in 1983. I don’t think Judge Nelson gave the idea a moment’s thought….

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Sri Srinivasan

* “Ten Worst Things for a Law Prof To Put on a CV.” [The Faculty Lounge]

* Think of this as another warning against taking sexually explicit photos of yourself. Or buying suspiciously cheap used computers. [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* Musical Chairs: Sri Srinivasan, chair of the appellate and Supreme Court practice at O’Melveny & Myers, is leaving OMM to serve as principal deputy to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. [Main Justice]

* Hey Warren Buffett: if you really feel that you are taxed too little, feel free to write a big check to the United States Government. [Huffington Post]

* Lawyer turned CEO Andy Lansing is looking for a few nice men (and women). [New York Times]

Woof woof!

* Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A dog walks into a bar…. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* IMF employees give Dominique Strauss-Kahn a warm welcome. [Dealbreaker]

* What is up with Georgia judges? Another one bites the dust: Judge Douglas Pullen leaves the bench, terminating an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

* More bad news for the much-sued Dov Charney. [Fashionista]

* Congratulations to the recipients of the First Chair Awards for in-house counsel! The awards will be presented tomorrow night. [First Chair Awards]

360-degree reviews: We solicit anonymous input from your boss, your peers, and your subordinates. A reviewer goes through all of that information, discusses it with you, and, perhaps, shares with you documents containing parts or all of the anonymous responses.

These are remarkably helpful tools. They’re helpful, first, because you know that they’re coming. If you’re going to be evaluated by everyone in the neighborhood, then you’re more likely to be civilized and fair to everyone in the neighborhood. (“Civilized and fair” doesn’t mean “easy” or “letting others break the rules.” It means “civilized and fair.” If someone’s performance needs improving, you talk reasonably with that person about his or her weaknesses and how to improve. You don’t belittle people or scream at them, because incivility will surely come back to haunt you at 360-degree review time, and you know that 360-degree review time is lurking in your future.)

360-degree reviews are helpful because you critique others. It’s relatively easy — or, at least, routine — to be asked to critique folks situated beneath you in a hierarchy. But it’s a little different to be asked to critique folks who are situated horizontally or above you. When you’re asked to critique those people formally, it makes you think a little harder: What are those people doing right? What are they doing wrong? What information should they hear about their performance?

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