In-House Counsel

I am watching the goings-on in Washington with a sense that the Republicans have simply given up. No matter that they have no sensible argument to shut down the government, no matter who it might hurt in the process, no matter that they are basically conceding the 2014 cycle — it appears that the GOP is imploding. They can natter on and on about how Obama “refuses to negotiate,” the simple fact is that there is nothing to negotiate. There was a bill, on Capitol Hill, it went to the White House and became a law (apologies to Saturday mornings) — and beyond that, the law was upheld as constitutional by one of the more intelligent and well-thought out Supreme Court opinions in my lifetime. There is nothing to debate. Game over. Oh, they can remind me incessantly of the unfairness of universal healthcare, and how ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare is a very bad thing, but just like that time that Gore beat Bush, and the Supremes ruled in a way that changed the outcome, you have to live with this.

But what we don’t have to live with is an irresponsible act by a relative few that impacts the lives of so many. Retribution and punitive measures may not be swift or severe enough, but how I wish we had implemented the act of “caning” in this country.

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Biglaw branding sounds painful, but thankfully, associates at the highest and mightiest of firms don’t have to sear their flesh with their firms’ logos. Biglaw branding is more about the image firms want clients to see when making hiring decisions, and partners are likely equally as worried about their reputations in the marketplace as their year-end profits.

The last time we spoke about law firm branding, we found out that Skadden had the most recognizable brand in the country. But we, loving rankings as we do, wondered which law firm had the best brand in the world. Luckily for us, hot on the heels of the release of the Am Law Global 100, Acritas published its 2013 Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index.

Who’s got the best Biglaw brand on the planet? Let’s find out…

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The glory days of 2006 and 2007 may never return. They call it the “new normal” for a reason.

But things at least can get better incrementally. And this is what might be happening in the in-house world, according to two new surveys. These studies report that in-house legal departments are increasing both their hiring and their spending — which could be good news for the law firms that service them, as well as all the Biglaw attorneys who dream of making the jump to in-house.

Don’t say that we never give you happy news around these parts….

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I took the train to Paris recently. (Sorry — I can’t help myself. I just love typing those words.)

That gave me an uninterrupted two hours to edit a document on the way to Paris and another uninterrupted two hours to edit a document on the way home.

The experiences couldn’t have been more different.

What’s odd is that it wasn’t the quality of the drafts that made the experiences different for me (the editor), but rather the quality of the reactions that I anticipated receiving from the authors.

How can that be? How can an editor enjoy revising one document and loathe revising another based solely on the anticipated responses to the edits? And what lessons might that teach the author (the person being edited)?

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“The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes for a seat on the Federal Circuit without any opposition. This is what progress looks like: Hughes will be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in U.S. history.” ATL Morning Docket citing BuzzFeed.

It wasn’t planned, but the fact that this site mentioned the above today played to my column in this topic. Who gives two whits that Todd Hughes is gay? Is it really progress? Or just a factoid that gets too far into the personal life of a respected jurist.

I am fortunate to work with an extremely diverse group of people. Not because they are “diverse,” but because they are really good lawyers. The make up of our OGC speaks to the fact that hiring is blind at this company, and it is comforting to know that people get hired on other bases than what they look like, or their sexual orientation….

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Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the law firms that Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. This year, to change things up a bit, it seems like the list has been expanded to cover the entire Fortune 500. From Apple to Yahoo, and every billion-dollar company in between, these corporate clients expect nothing short of the best in terms of legal representation when dealing with high-stakes litigation and deals. If you’re looking to line your firm’s pockets, you better head to the RFP line when these companies seek lawyers.

Up until last year, only the most prominent Biglaw firms (like Cleary, Davis Polk, Cravath, and Simpson Thacher) topped the list of those that had the pleasure of doing business with the country’s biggest companies. Things changed rapidly, however, when Big Business tried to cash in on deals for legal services. The firms that were willing to cave to the pressure of providing alternative fee arrangements won in a big way, and the rest were left in the dust.

Have these prestigious firms changed their ways? Is Corporate America again willing to open its fat wallet for them? Let’s find out…

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* Leading litigatrix Kathryn Ruemmler will leave her position as White House counsel and return to private practice. Perhaps she’ll have more time (and money) to build her shoe collection. [Blog of Legal Times]

* If you care about the business end of the law, you’ll want to see which firms are representing Corporate America. This is a list that matters. We’ll have more on this later today. [Corporate Counsel]

* Biglaw firms in Chicago are shrinking, with headcount at the 25 largest firms dropping by 15 percent since 2008. Don’t worry, this is the “new normal,” everything’s fine. [Crain's Chicago Business]

* Show me your poker face: UNLV Law’s dean wants to raise the school’s profile in the eyes of new students by bulking up its gaming law program and letting the chips fall where they may. [Las Vegas Sun]

* It looks like the wage and hour ruling against Rick’s Cabaret has started an avalanche of lawsuits filed by angry, underpaid strippers. Now, they want $10 million inserted into their g-strings. [New York Daily News]

In-house counsel react to new business plan.

I am now officially on the downside of my 40s. Not a big deal really, but I am definitely not a “kid” anymore. My first official duty in middle age was to mow the grass. As I was going along, minding my business, I rolled over a hive of ground hornets. Eight stings later, and after ibuprofen, a stiff drink and some rest, the trauma ended. I sort of felt the same way about the reaction to last week’s column. For the record, I am not a depressed individual with nothing good to say about the profession. My message was basically an observation of the mess in which we currently find ourselves. And yes, I would advise someone with a choice, not to go to law school right now. If you are enrolled, graduated, employed, working in law, etc., it is what it is. But for those of you contemplating — I am telling you, you’ll work just as hard in a bank, and your paycheck may actually reflect the skills and intelligence required for the job. Oh, and you’ll get to tell lawyers what to do — always fun.

Today I would like to discuss an aspect of in-house life that can be alternately exciting and annoying as all get out: the ever-changing target of a business plan….

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Andrea Pellegrini

The old saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” and it usually preaches that people are different on the inside, and generally for the better. That’s kind of a stupid saying when you think about it because a cover is an image specifically selected by the author and a publisher to entice people to read the book. It’s designed to reflect the book. If anything, a cover misleads the consumer into buying a book that’s not as good as the cover. So if you’re judging a book by its cover, there is only a risk that the reality is going to be worse.

This is all a roundabout way of pointing out that a business structured around a couple of guys who affirmatively choose to dress up like evil clowns and sing “F**k Celine Dion and f**k Dionne Warwick, you both make me sick, suck my dick,” have been sued for sexual harassment.

The allegations are kind of crazy, and claim other criminality as well….

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I wrote several weeks ago about why I should waste time — why I should attend some meetings at which I’m not really necessary. I should do this to learn what folks on my team are doing on a daily basis, to have a chance to work one-on-one with more people who ultimately report up to me, and to improve employee job satisfaction by having a manager show interest in employees’ work.

To my in-house eye, that’s not “wasted” time; it’s “invested” time — time that improves our collective well-being, even though it doesn’t result in my having completed a specific task that the organization needs accomplished.

As I think about it, I see an awful lot of these things in-house that I would never have seen at a law firm. For example, several weeks ago, we decided to invite a junior in-house lawyer to attend meetings of our “Corporate Ethics Committee,” at which a fairly senior group addresses, among other things, important issues that arise through our corporation’s anonymous ethics hotline. We didn’t invite the junior lawyer because his or her attendance was important to the committee’s deliberations; rather, we thought that attending the committee meetings would provide helpful training and give the junior lawyer more exposure to senior people in the department.

At a law firm, everyone would spit in your eye if you suggested that a junior person should unnecessarily attend a meeting simply for the sake of training and exposure: This would constitute either over-billing the client or wasting potentially billable hours. . . .

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