In-House Counsel

Kristen Saban

* The Fortune 500′s top women lawyers have a message for you. There is a ton of female talent out there, and you’ll probably have a woman at the head of your legal department very, very soon — whether you like it or not. [Corporate Counsel]

* Cornell Law’s new dean would definitely be a contender if we still ran those Law School Dean Hotties contests. Welcome, Eduardo Peñalver. First task: resolve the tie at #13 in the latest U.S. News law school rankings. [Cornell Chronicle]

* Cleveland-Marshall Law has a new “risk-free” degree. Just go for one year. If you hate it, you can drop out, but you’ll have a master of legal studies — which is better than one-third of a J.D. [National Law Journal]

* Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, the man who has emphatically and repeatedly denied that he’s Bitcoin’s creator, hired a law firm to continue to spread his denials across the globe. Wow. Such lawyer. [Newsmax]

* This catfight could use some mud: A lawyer for Sarah Grimes, the sorority girl who came to blows with Nick Saban’s daughter and sued, pledged to take his client’s case to the state’s highest court. [AL.com]

I don’t do politics in this column.

For two good reasons: First, Lat asked me to write about life as an in-house lawyer or, at a minimum, an in-house lawyer’s perception of outside firms. If I wrote about politics, I’d be way off the mark. Second, I work at the world’s leading insurance broker for law firms. If I wrote about politics — no matter which side I took — I’d offend half my readers. Some of those offended readers would complain to their brokers, and I’d soon have a phalanx of brokers with pitchforks storming my office door.

But I’m throwing caution (and Lat’s instructions about topicality) to the wind today, and I’m posing a question that struck me recently: Set your mind back to 1983, the year in which I graduated from law school. Suppose, in 1983, someone posed this question to you:

Look into the future. When will each of these events occur? (1) We’ll elect an African-American President of the United States; (2) states will begin legalizing gay marriage; and (3) states will begin legalizing the use of marijuana. Which will occur first, second, and third, and in what years?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Will Come First — A Black President, Gay Marriage, Or Legalization Of Marijuana?”

Hello loyal ATL readers. I’m back! I’ve been on somewhat of a forced vacation during this past year. That is, of course, if by “forced vacation” we mean “involved in a tragic scenario where I barely made it out alive.” To put it lightly.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was cruising on the highway on a clear Sunday morning. I took a bite of my breakfast sandwich and started to place it down onto the area between the front car seats that’s intended to hold things. But as my hand descended, I felt the sandwich start to come out of the wrapper. I looked down and fumbled around with the thing to prevent it from becoming a big freaking mess all over the car. It was literally just a few seconds and I didn’t even realize that I was no longer looking out the front windshield.

The car drifted toward the right and I jolted when the front right corner of my car hit the highway barrier. My first thought was, “Geez, I’m not gonna be able to hide that one from Michael.” The car then careened over toward the left side. I tried frantically to steer it in the opposite direction, but it had no impact on the leftward course of the car. It crashed mightily into the cement median and came to a dead stop.

Needless to say, it was not a good morning. I mean, I only had one bite of my sandwich and I did have a big mess all over the car…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: A Brief Moment That Took Me Out For A Year”


Remember the pushmi-pullyu?

It can teach you a lesson about the law.

Years ago, I heard the frustrated 60-year-old head of an IP department at a big firm complain: “Aren’t there any other IP lawyers at this firm? Why do I have to decide everything?”

The problem, of course, was that his subordinates were on the wrong end of the pushmi-pullyu: They were pulling the senior guy back instead of pushing him forward. My sense is that the average lawyer, either at a firm or in-house, suffers from the same affliction: The average lawyer stands at the . . . er . . . back mouth of the beast.

I recently published a self-assessment test to help you learn whether you were a bad litigator. I’ve cleverly designed another self-assessment test, this one to gauge whether you advance the cause or obstruct it when you work on a legal matter. Here’s the test:

Look at the last email that you sent reporting on a legal development and seeking guidance on the next step forward. How does that email end? For many of you, the last sentence includes one of these two phrases, which prove that you stand at the pullyu end of the beast . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “On Dr. Dolittle And The Law: Learning To Advance The Cause”

For those of you who haven’t tuned out Jarndyce v. Jarndyce Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, the never-ending litigation between oil giant Chevron and plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger, today brings some news. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who have been following the case, but Judge Lewis Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.) just ruled in favor of Chevron, enjoining Donziger and his Ecuadorean-villager clients from trying to enforce here in the United States the multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment they secured against Chevron in Ecuador — a judgment that was the result of fraud, according to Judge Kaplan. (Links to coverage and to the parties’ reactions to the ruling appear at the end of this post.)

The Chevron/Ecuador case is one of those matters that’s most interesting to those who are actually involved in it; to the rest of us, it’s a lot of noise. Speaking for myself, I’m interested in only two aspects of it: (1) its impact on the revenue and profit of Gibson Dunn, which has been litigating the case aggressively on behalf of Chevron, and (2) its meaning for the deeply troubled law firm of Patton Boggs, which made the ill-advised decision to align itself with the Ecuadorean village people.

In a media call this afternoon that I joined, Chevron’s general counsel, R. Hewitt Pate, declined to discuss the size of the company’s legal fees in the litigation. So we’ll have to focus on that second item: the bog that is Patton Boggs. Which right now looks like the Lago Agrio oil field, prior to remediation….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Patton Boggs Down In The Dumps, Hires Financial Advisers”

I took the title of this column from Aristotle: “Young men are easily deceived, for they are quick to hope.

But I’m really thinking about business development and, as I often do in my navel-gazing columns, simply using myself as a case study.

I graduated from law school in 1983 and published my first article (in California Lawyer) in 1986. (I’d provide a link to the article, but I’m afraid the internet didn’t exist way back when. The article was a thriller, though; trust me: “Reviewing the Unreviewable: Obtaining Appellate Review of Federal Trial Court Remand Orders.”)

Because I was a young man, I was quick to hope: I’d published an article! My phone would naturally start ringing off the hook within the next few weeks! I’d be deploying my novel thesis in cases left and right, and the partners at my firm would be dumbstruck by my ability to develop business! Life of Riley, here I come!

Because I was quick to hope, I was easily deceived: Publishing one short article — even an article with a pretty decent thesis in a journal with a fairly large circulation — does not generate new business.

So I expanded my analysis and published the long-form of my article in the Arizona State Law Journal in 1987.

Because I was still a young man, I was still quick to hope. . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “‘Young Men Are Easily Deceived, For They Are Quick To Hope’: The Slow Process Of Developing Business”

Andi Dorfman

* If your firm has not yet given in to the demands of corporate clients for more reasonable billing structures, please be aware that a) your firm is behind the times, and b) you better be prepared to get your white shoes scuffed. [Boston Globe]

* Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest firm of them all? According to the 2014 Acritas Brand Index survey, Skadden is the firm on everyone’s mind — for the third year in a row. They must be doing something right. Congrats! [Am Law Daily]

* Part of this former staff attorney’s discrimination suit against Quinn Emanuel was dismissed, but as our editor, Elie Mystal, mused when he first heard of this case, it’s likely “the only color Quinn cares about is green.” [New York Law Journal]

* Trendspotting: Because fast-growing technology equals fast-growing money when it comes to the law, LeClairRyan is the first second firm in the U.S. to open up a drone practice group. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

UPDATE (1:00 p.m.): Actually, Kramer Levin launched its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Practice Group back in December 2013, as noted by the ABA Journal and Bloomberg News.

* Bachelorette-in-waiting Andi Dorfman was granted an unpaid leave of absence from her job as an ADA to star in this summer’s edition of the reality show. We guess her boss gave her career a rose. [Daily Report]

It’s so hard to judge yourself.

Deep in your soul you know that people who criticize you are idiots, and people who praise you are wise and sagacious.

How can you possibly tell if you’re any good at what you do?

I have the answer for you! I’ve created a litigators’ self-assessment test! Now you’ll know if you’re any good!

Here’s how it works: Take out the last brief you filed.

Do it. Now. You won’t learn anything if you don’t follow the rules.

Look at the first sentence of your brief. For about ten percent of the people reading this column, the first sentence of your brief says (and I quote) . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Are You A Crappy Litigator? A Self-Assessment Test!”

Jennifer Jones

* A source says the casualties at Kasowitz were a matter of “managing the pipeline” after work involving the credit crisis dried up. Don’t worry, he says the firm’s still really busy. Aww, someone will believe you. [New York Law Journal]

* Sorry, folks, but if you want to work in Biglaw, taking classes during law school like “Law and Unicorns” isn’t going to cut it. Try to stick to the boring stuff, and you probably won’t get dinged as often. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Oregon’s AG is refusing to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage because it “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.” That’s just fabulous, darling. [Bloomberg]

* Career alternatives for attorneys: Olympic gold medalist. Jennifer Jones, in-house counsel at National Bank Financial, helped Canada’s curling team take the win this week in Sochi. You go, girl! [The Star]

* Say hi to this century’s Stella Liebeck. A woman is suing Dunkin’ Donuts after suffering second and third degree burns to her crotchal region after spilling her hot apple cider. [New Jersey Law Journal (reg. req.)]

Christina Gagnier

Ed. note: Please welcome Christina Gagnier, who will be covering small law firm practice. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

When you are starting out, or even eight years in to running your own firm, you want clients. You need people coming through the door, physically or virtually, who are willing to pay for your legal services.

As much as you want to take all of the clients that you can get, you have to look out for the red flags — those potential clients who are going to be more trouble than they are worth or may lead you down a rabbit hole. Two stories highlight different types of potential client red flags…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Episode 2: Just Saying No To Potential Clients”

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