In-House Counsel

I’m writing this wearing my new bifocals. They take some getting used to after years of regular glasses and contacts. But, after watching me examine small print like I was Mr. Magoo, my wife convinced me that it was time to take a symbolic plunge toward middle age. I admit to no small amount of trepidation at the prospect of wearing “old folks” glasses. But the risk of not seeing properly finally outweighed my vanity, and a change had to be made.

And so it goes with some legal decisions in-house. When faced with a dilemma, you weigh the risks versus rewards, and pull the trigger on what you hope is the right decision.

In a company the size of mine, people have performed risk/reward analyses on legal issues for years, down to the proper placement of semicolons in contract clauses. To borrow from the iPhone ads, yep, there’s a committee for that. We have Lean Six Sigma belts of all colors who are subject matter experts in every facet of our business. There are folks with many years of experience, who own any number of policies from which I am to draw when making decisions. It sounds on paper like filling in the blanks will get you where you need to go, but that is far from reality.

In a perfect world, for my job anyway, a Customer would receive a proposed agreement, see the inherent fairness in the document (and the work that went into carefully crafting all those clauses and semicolons), and sign on the dotted line. But sadly, life isn’t perfect, and I have yet to receive a contract back without so much as a redline….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: Risk / Reward”

He grows strong off the tears of fired workers.

* There’s a new chief legal officer at Morgan Stanley: Eric Grossman, a former Davis Polk partner, replaces Frank Barron, a former Cravath partner (who joined Morgan Stanley not that long ago; if you know more about this odd situation, email us). [Bloomberg Businessweek]

* Will anybody be surprised if it turns out that Ron Paul likes to fire people too? [Politico]

* Et tu, Bill Kristol? [Weekly Standard]

* How will Citizens United affect the political process? We’re starting to find out. [WSJ Law Blog]

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski

* How often does a federal judge get a shout-out in the announcement of a pop music group’s tour? [The Music Network]

* Or how often does a federal judge go on tour with his own band? [Patently-O]

* Maybe the NLRB should stay the course on protecting employees’ rights to organize themselves using social media. [LexisNexis / Labor & Employment Law]

* Most people will just ignore the balanced budget amendment as proposed by Chuck Woolery (yes, that Chuck Woolery), but on the off chance that somebody actually says to you, “You know, Chuck Woolery has some really good ideas,” here’s somebody who took the time to smack the Chuckster down. [Recess Appointment]

He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It’s playoff time in the National Football League. Fun times. This year’s playoffs are more intense than usual, since Tim Tebow is probably the only conservative who can challenge Obama this fall.

I’m a Tim Tebow convert. Sure, if Tim Tebow were black, he’d be a back-up tight end, but that’s not a reason to hate on Tebow. He wins football games. What more do you want from him? There aren’t a lot of elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Tebow’s not elite, but he wins games. Wouldn’t you rather roll the dice with the Tebow show than going with the practiced mediocrity of Kevin Kolb, or Colt McCoy, or David Garrard? I honestly think that Tebow gets a lot of hate because so many people passed on Tebow to go with guys like that.

Jacksonville did. Tebow is a god in Florida (I mean, Tebow threw for 316 prophetic yards last night, so I do not rule out the possibility that he’s a God everywhere), and he was sitting there in the draft when Jacksonville was starting David Garrard and they passed on him. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a new owner. Coincidence?

In fairness, the Jaguars seem to be a terribly run organization. It appears that even the Jags’ lawyers can’t get it together. The new owner reportedly removed the team’s general counsel for something that looks like an unforgivable error for a lawyer to make….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How to Get Fired From Your Job as General Counsel to an NFL Team”

It’s tough being the managing partner of Bigg & Mediocre. All of the hard issues land on my desk. We’ve hired a new Chief Marketing Officer, and this guy recommends that we launch some firm-branded blogs. Press reports say that 94 percent of the AmLaw 100 plan to use blogs as part of their marketing efforts. I guess I have to make a decision; what should we do?

I’ve never actually visited a legal blog. I’ve certainly never subscribed to a good one (if there is such a thing, which I doubt). Someone once sent me a link to something called “Above the Law,” but that was just a post discussing our year-end bonuses.

To blog or not to blog: What’s a managing partner to do?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Should My Big Firm Blog?”

It’s one of the biggest cons going around. I cringe whenever I hear it. A lawyer laughs and says, “I’m not good with numbers — that’s why I became a lawyer.”

On the surface, it seems to make sense; it sounds like it should be true. For some, it might even be true. After all, the last time we used quadratic equations was back when loafers on bare feet were considered desirable footwear (thanks Don Johnson).

In-house lawyers should never, ever say they’re bad at math — even those who really are. After all, business people are preoccupied with numbers. As an in-house lawyer, telling a business person that you’re bad at math is like telling them you don’t care about the most important thing that everyone else in your company cares about, and if your company is publicly listed, what every investor in your company cares about — the company’s numbers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: Things Not to Say In-House – ‘I’m Bad at Math’”

Cops learn to hate people. Basically everyone they encounter is a criminal, so cops soon come to believe that everyone is a criminal.

Litigators — or perhaps litigators who are repeat players in a particular field — learn to hate people. Personal injury insurance defense counsel come to believe that all plaintiffs are lying fakers. Personal injury plaintiffs’ lawyers come to believe that all insurance defense counsel are tightfisted jerks who never pay a claim.

Maybe this is natural. If you spend eight hours every day repeatedly doing the same thing over the course of many years, you become what you do. It’s hard to break out of your role.

But this can cause trouble for in-house litigators. If you become what you do, consider who in-house litigators learn to hate . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Learning Who To Hate”

2012. How many times will some DJ play “(It’s the) End of the World” by R.E.M over the course of the next year? I’d wager about as many times as I was told ad nauseam (pun intended) that a proper Christmas gift is a Lexus (read: upscale Toyota) over the course of the Christmas break. Anyway, it’s back to work for most of us, as some of you never had a break.

I have written before about the shock of becoming a “lowly” cost center as opposed to a private practice revenue center. Also, unlike private practice, there may be a much smaller chance for advancement in a larger law department. Funny enough, folks tend to stay in jobs where they are comfortable and where they are treated well. I am fortunate to work for a company where I enjoy both, but so do the lawyers in peer groups more senior to mine. One of the selling points of my current position is the longevity of the attorneys here. People tend to come and stay — for a long time.

Thus, that sense of security also comes with layers of more senior attorneys, which makes it difficult to advance in the department. There are opportunities to switch to the business side, but if legal is where you want to be, you must attempt to distinguish yourself from a host of very good attorneys. So, today, I am offering some suggestions on how to make yourself more valuable to the department. In future columns, I will address some ideas to assist your general counsel with bringing some revenue back into the company in order to help offset your costs, and to assist you politically….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: Positioning Yourself As a Value Add”

Fiscal year end for us is officially this coming Saturday. Until then we’re expected to be on call 24/7. While it might seem draconian, we’re a sales-based technology company, and the push is on for the “Field” to get their year-end orders completed. I readily admit that being “on-call” just four times per year (three quarter ends and one year end), rather than “all year all the time,” is not a bad deal.

When I was in private practice, you were expected to respond top clients ASAP, if not sooner. It didn’t matter where you were or what you were doing, you had to respond. I brought that attitude with me when joining my current employer. This not only took many of my clients by surprise, but by putting myself out there as a go to attorney 24/7, I find that very few clients actually take advantage of that proposal. Truth be told, I am able to “disconnect” on vacation weeks, and I have forewarned anyone tempted to call me at home that if it isn’t a true emergency, I’ll just put my two-year-old on the phone and let them discuss the latest happenings in rugrat world….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: Year-End Press”

‘Tis the season to puzzle over holiday gift etiquette at the office. Every year, a few questions come up about this topic — what’s appropriate, how much, whether they really have to, etc. No really, one year, a colleague complained, “Well, I’m not getting much of a bonus this year, so why should I give a gift to my secretary?” What you’d call a true, selfless, holiday spirit.

Obviously, this was back during law firm days, when bonus announcements are made early, unlike at companies, where the grand reveal isn’t usually for another couple of months after wilting trees have been cleared from the driveways. Not gifting your admin wasn’t exactly unheard of at a law firm, though, and I think it evidences a difference between the impact of gift-giving at a large law firm versus in-house.

At a law firm, you could give gifts to every employee at the office (or not) and, while your colleagues would be appreciative (or not), this act (or lack thereof) really wouldn’t make much of a difference in your career. Do you still have zero clients? Okay, still not making partner. Still have boatloads of clients? Continue with deity status.

At a company, on the other hand, you need to find out the unwritten rules for gifting….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: Holiday Gifting at the Office (Hint: Ixnay on the Nose Hair Clippers)”

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the difference between résumé-based interviews and behavioral interviews. (In a nutshell, résumé-based interviews ask applicants for opinions about their personal histories; behavioral interviews ask for factual descriptions of how applicants handled certain situations in their lives.)

I really didn’t expect that to be a controversial topic, but I received messages by the e-mailbag full. Two folks recommended entirely revamping the way we interview candidates for legal jobs, and I’m sharing those two thoughts here — revealing the less controversial suggestion before the jump and the more controversial one after, just to leave you hanging.

My first correspondent, from a large West Coast law firm, said that he liked the idea of doing behavioral interviews, but he didn’t think interviews should be a game of “gotcha.” Thus, we should not surprise applicants at their interviews by asking an applicant to, say, identify a situation in which the applicant was forced to lead a group, what the applicant did, and how the applicant assessed the results. Instead, my correspondent suggested, firms should send to applicants in advance a set of behavioral interview questions that might be asked during the interviews, so the applicants would have a chance to think about their pasts, identify responsive situations, and give considered answers when later asked the questions.

I think that’s a fine idea, but I don’t think it’s a novel one. I recently saw several business school applications, and many B-school essay questions read strikingly like behavioral interview questions: Identify a certain type of situation in your past, and explain how you dealt with it. If business schools think that carefully crafted written answers to those questions yield meaningful insight into whether to admit an applicant into school, then there’s no reason why law firms shouldn’t ask similar questions and give applicants plenty of time to frame their answers.

But my second correspondent was even more radical . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Revamping Interviews Entirely”

Page 50 of 731...464748495051525354...73