General Counsel

Corporate Counsel just released its annual list of the law firms that Fortune 500 companies utilize as outside counsel (as noted in Morning Docket). Not surprisingly, the nation’s biggest corporations turn to some of the biggest names in Biglaw for legal services.

But as we noted last year, the most-mentioned firms aren’t necessarily the most prestigious or the most profitable. The rankings prioritize quantity, and they’re dominated by firms that excel in a particular practice area. See if you can guess which one….

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A full house for last week’s in-house counsel panel at Betterment.

Last week, Betterment and Above the Law hosted a great panel discussion about working as an in-house lawyer at a relatively young company. The event, hosted at Betterment’s spacious and airy offices in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, drew a standing-room-only crowd of around 200 people.

How can you get a job as an in-house lawyer for a startup? And what’s life like once you’re there?

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* Nothing demands a SWAT team like a 90-year-old woman. [Lowering the Bar]

* Not so much legal, but here’s Princeton Review’s ranking of the best and worst colleges. If you’re looking for hard liquor, head to Iowa City. [TaxProf Blog]

* Dewey know what Al Togut’s going to say about law firm bankruptcies. Yeah, I know, but we’re just going to keep riding this pun. [Forbes]

* Corruption in New Orleans? Hold on, I need a second to let this sink in. [The Times-Picayune]

* Be sure to come by Betterment on Wednesday to hear from a panel of general counsel about the transition to in-house work for a startup company. [Above the Law]

* The CFPB is cracking down on debt-collecting law firms. So if you’re a bottom-feeder, the government is coming for you. [Gawker]


* The NRA’s general counsel was once convicted of murder. What’s the phrase? If you outlaw guns, only general counsel will have guns… [Mother Jones]

* Seattle is looking for people donating skulls to Goodwill. Wow, if Jeffrey Dahmer had only known there was a charitable tax write-off available. [Lowering the Bar]

* “A domestic helper has appeared in court accused of trying to injure her employer by mixing her menstrual blood in a pot of vegetables she was cooking.” Eww. [Legal Juice]

* Can Congress sue the president? Here are multiple takes. [The Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* As the confirmation of Pamela Harris to the Fourth Circuit reminds us, “that whole nuclear option has really worked out.” So far. [Huffington Post]

* Money magazine is looking to create a ranking of undergraduate schools heavy on outcome-based factors. If you need any hints on how to do it, let us know. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Donald Sterling has lost, which is something he knows a lot about from his years of owning the Clippers. Here’s Mitchell Epner’s review of the ruling and its appealability. [CNBC]

I must have reached a certain age.

Within the last month, three different people have contacted me to say that they’re approaching retirement, so it’s time to start serving on boards of directors. These folks came to me (of all people!) to network.

By keeping my ear so close to the ground, I’ve discovered the new, new thing. And you’re in luck — I’ll share it with you!

Everyone’s getting old and thinking about retirement.

Or maybe I’ve buried the lede. Maybe hordes of baby boomers are now thinking about finding a part-time job that pays good money and keeps you entertained after you’ve stopped working full-time.

That’s not a bad strategy, really. If you’re industrious, you could serve on four or five boards, carefully analyze the board materials before each meeting, monitor the companies’ fortunes, contribute insights and ask tough questions during the meetings, and follow up after meetings in pursuit of the corporate good.

On the other hand, if you’re less industrious, you could show up for a few board and committee meetings every year, enjoy cocktails and dinner with the boys, sit like a cardboard cutout during the meetings, and pocket a few hundred grand annually for your efforts, . . .

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Betterment EventTransitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.

Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.

For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.

In partnership with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house, featuring GCs from Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.

Details and panelists appear below…

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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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Amal Alamuddin, ready to graduate from law school

* There’s a very good chance that if you go in-house, you could wind up making more money than even the wealthiest of Biglaw partners. But how much more? Take a look at the latest GC compensation survey. [Corporate Counsel]

* GM has hired outside counsel to review the way the company handles its litigation practices. Since we’re not sure which, we’ll take bets on whether this “well-respected outside law firm” is Wachtell or Jenner & Block. [WSJ Law Blog]

* A federal judge in California ruled that the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional. It seems that allowing a defendant to live with the “slight possibility of death” violates the Eighth Amendment. Damn you, appeals! [New York Times]

* “He hasn’t been charged with anything at the moment and we’ll deal with the charges when they’re filed.” Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is currently being represented by Yale Law lecturer Eugene R. Fidell, a recognized military law expert (and husband of noted legal journalist Linda Greenhouse). [New Haven Register]

* We all know that George Clooney’s fiancée, Amal Alamuddin, has both beauty and brains. What we didn’t know is that she poses for incredibly embarrassing pictures, just like the rest of us. [Us Weekly]

* How do Americans feel about the Supreme Court’s recent cellphone privacy ruling, Riley v. California? [Digital Constitution / Microsoft]

John Farren and Mary Farren

When we last checked in on John Michael Farren, the former general counsel to Xerox and deputy White House counsel under President George W. Bush, things were not going well for him. Back in December, a jury found him liable for assault and battery against his former wife, Mary Margaret Farren. The jury awarded Mary Farren some $28.6 million in damages — an amount that reflected the brain injury and emotional trauma suffered by Mrs. Farren, who went from a lucrative job at Skadden to unemployment.

Criminal charges against Mike Farren remained pending at the time of the civil verdict. On Friday, the criminal case got resolved — and not in a manner favorable to Mike Farren….

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I never heard these words before I went in-house: “If you send something to a person above me in the hierarchy, then send a copy to me, too.”

Now I hear (or speak) those words all the time. And those instructions seem pretty easy to grasp.

Remarkably, a fair number of people don’t seem to understand what those words mean.

I offer this column for the benefit of in-house newbies, and in-house oldbies who don’t understand, and lawyers at firms who might want to consider whether these instructions make sense at law firms, too.

If you’re sending something to someone above me in the hierarchy, then send a copy to me, too.

Why?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If It Goes To People Above Me, Then It Goes To Me, Too”

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