Amy Schulman

What’s more stressful: working in-house, or working at a law firm? Conventional wisdom might say that law firm life is more stressful — but that’s not the case for everyone, as recently explained by one of our in-house columnists, Susan Moon.

So in-house lawyers might be more stressed than many people think. But at least they’re getting paid a pretty penny to put up with all these headaches — mo’ problems, mo’ money?

That’s one conclusion to be drawn from Corporate Counsel’s new rankings of the nation’s best-paid general counsel. Conventional wisdom holds that in-house lawyers earn less than their Biglaw counterparts — but top in-house lawyers, the GCs of the nation’s largest companies, earn sums that meet or even exceed Biglaw partner pay….

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* A federal judge just struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* After striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws, our neighbors to the North went ahead and approved a law school that functionally bans gays. What’s going on up there? Play keep away with the Stanley Cup for 20 years and they just lose their damn minds. [TaxProf Blog]

* Chief Judge Alex Kozinski objects, but nobody wants to hear it. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* Professor Richard Sander won the right to examine law school race, attendance and grade information, in a bid to prove his central theory that affirmative action somehow hurts black folks. I guess the California Supreme Court is on Team Sander. [San Jose Mercury News]

* Amy Schulman, the powerful general counsel at Pfizer, is out — and now there’s some interesting speculation as to why. [Law and More]

* So now everyone’s writing legal opinions over Fantasy Football trades. [BigLaw Rebel]

* Jim Harbaugh gets all his legal acumen from Judge Judy. Next thing you know he’ll be objecting to “What’s your deal?” for lack of foundation. [ESPN]

* Speaking of Jennifer Lawrence, she can probably help with your International Law final. [The Onion]

* There’s a rundown of the top patent law stories of 2013 on the web next month. And there’s CLE to be had! [Patently-O]

Nose candy for pimps.

* An NSA review panel thinks the Chief Justice of the United States shouldn’t be the only one appointing judges to the FISA Court. We imagine John Roberts is pulling a Stuart Smalley. Don’t worry, you’re good enough. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Sadly, Amy Schulman, one of America’s most influential lawyers and best-paid general counsel, is out at Pfizer. After leading the charge against outside counsel’s hourly billing, we doubt she’ll head back to DLA Piper. [Corporate Counsel]

* Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel in the GWB administration, allegedly hated gay staffers so much he shipped them to Detroit. That settles it: he really hated them. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed a bill that would ban all private employers — except the government — from running credit checks on new hires. Let’s go rack up some credit card debt! [National Law Journal]

* Law schools are facing enrollment problems, but Boalt Hall and Santa Clara Law saw the size of their entering classes rise. Flooding the entry-level job market continues to be celebrated. [The Recorder]

* “Yes — I do share nose candy with these girls. For free. For my personal use, OK?” Pro se litigants say the darndest things. Good thing this guy got an attorney before things got worse. [Albany Times Union]


GCs did very well for themselves last year.

At our recent Seattle event with in-house counsel — by the way, thanks to all the attendees and to Recommind, our sponsor — I asked the panelists about what they most enjoy about in-house practice. Christi Muoneke of DocuSign and Brad Toney of Classmates Media both discussed the satisfaction they get from working for a single client on interesting issues that call for both legal and business judgment.

Of course, there are many other good things about working as an in-house lawyer (which is why in-house posts are so coveted). Liberation from the billable hour is one big advantage. Healthy pay packages are another.

At junior levels, Biglaw associates who go in-house might take a pay cut (although not necessarily). But many of the top dogs of the in-house world earn amounts that far outstrip average partner pay.

Let’s take a closer look at Corporate Counsel’s recently released rankings of the nation’s best-paid general counsel. Some GCs enjoy pay packages that make Biglaw partners look like paupers….

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Today, the National Law Journal released its list of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. The NLJ releases a similar list once every few years, and each time, the nation’s top lawyers — some from Biglaw, some from legal academia, some from the in-house world, and some from the trial and appellate bars — celebrate their success in creating real change in the industry. That said, the people named to this list are relatively well-known to the general Above the Law readership, but they won’t exactly be household names to laypeople.

Which legal eagles soared into the NLJ’s list this time around? Well, the NLJ selected their influential lawyers based on their political clout, legal results, media penetration, business credibility, and thought leadership. We’ve whittled the impressive list of 100 down to our own top 10.

So who made our cut?

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Last year, all things considered, wasn’t a bad year for Biglaw. The law firms of the Am Law 100, for example, experienced decent growth. In 2011, for the Am Law 100 as a whole, gross revenue grew by 5.3 percent, revenue per lawyer grew by 1.9 percent, and profits per partner grew by 3 percent. It was a perfectly fine year for partners.

How did their counterparts on the corporate side fare? Alas, not as well, according to Corporate Counsel’s latest compensation survey of the nation’s general counsel. Base pay for GCs in the survey declined by 1.8 percent, to an average of $611,411. Bonuses and nonequity incentive pay slid by an even larger number, 7.7 percent, to an average of $1,125,458. Meanwhile, in terms of non-cash compensation, the average stock award fell by 10.8 percent, to $1,426,325, and the average stock option award dropped by a whopping 18.7 percent, to $732,453.

These are just the top-line figures — which, of course, conceal a lot of individual variability. Let’s take a look at some specific names and numbers, as well as the top ten highest-paid general counsel….

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A story I often tell is about the first time I took a deposition. I got there early, and I thought that the most important thing was to control the witness. I didn’t realize the first time around that the way you control somebody is not by intimidating them. But I adjusted the chair that I was sitting on so that I’d be really tall, and could look down imposingly on the witness. But I raised it so high that as soon as I sat down, I toppled over and fell backward.

Amy Schulman, executive vice president and general counsel of Pfizer, in a New York Times interview about her leadership style.

(Additional excerpts and discussion, after the jump.)

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At the Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), there was a great lunchtime discussion called “Her Stories: The Evolving Role of Women in Business and Law.” It featured a panel of heavy hitters: two women currently serving as general counsel to Fortune 500 companies, and a third who previously served as GC to no fewer than four Fortune 500 companies over her career.

What does their rise say about the changing role of women in the corporate legal world? How did they get to their lofty perches? And what advice would they offer to lawyers aspiring to such successful careers?

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If you haven’t yet read the long piece in Fortune magazine about the rise and fall of Jeff Kindler as the CEO of Pfizer, you really should. The story may or may not be true — I have no idea — but it would be interesting reading even if it were a work of fiction about corporate political intrigue.

I’ve never met Jeff Kindler. I do know several people who are close friends of his, and I’ve watched his career from a distance as he moved from Williams & Connolly to GE to the general counsel of McDonald’s to the general counsel of Pfizer and then, startlingly, to the CEO of Pfizer. The Fortune piece traces this whole career in detail and then describes why and how Kindler resigned from the CEO spot after serving only very briefly.

Why mention that article here? First, I’m doing you a favor; if you hadn’t previously heard about the piece, now you have a link.

Second, the article said two things about in-house counsel that rang true with me — whether or not these things actually occurred at Pfizer….

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