Sitting here in the catbird’s seat, it’s easy to criticize things that outside counsel do. (It’s not just easy; my hope is that it’s also worthwhile. When I was in private practice, I paid close attention when I learned about things that annoyed clients.) But we’re equal opportunity critics here at ATL. It’s time to turn my sights on myself: What do inside counsel do that works to our own detriment?
I haven’t heard much from my outside counsel on this score, perhaps because I’m the client, and outside counsel are reluctant to criticize me (to my face). And I don’t innately sense all the things that I’m doing that are grossly stupid. But I do remember a fair number of silly things that inside counsel inflicted on me when I was at a law firm, and I can work backwards from there.
There are many advantages to working for a corporation instead of a law firm: You learn a business from the inside out; work regularly with business people, rather than other lawyers; are spared the daily insanity of quibbling with opposing counsel about whether the deposition will be taken in Houston or Denver; can often avoid blowing up the week between Christmas and New Year’s because some clown dropped a TRO on your client on December 24; and on and on.
But it’s much too easy to write about that. So I’ve explored the other side of the coin: I’ve asked several litigators who recently went in-house what they missed most about private practice. I generally heard two things in response:
First: Many litigators enjoy litigating. A common refrain is this: “I miss doing it!”
“I can’t believe I have to sit in the back of a courtroom and watch other guys give opening statements. And over lunch, I’m just kibitzing from the sidelines, hoping the trial lawyers listen to my suggestions.”
Or, “There’s a huge difference between flying to Chicago to argue in the Seventh Circuit and flying to Chicago to watch your outside counsel argue. One is a real event. For the other, you call an old friend to set up dinner the night before, watch the end of Monday Night Football in your hotel room, and then roll down to the courthouse in the morning. Your pulse rate never goes above 60.”
If you love the spotlight (as many litigators do), you may not like stepping out of it. You may miss doing it….
When you interview for an in-house job as head of litigation, that’s what everyone — CEO, CFO, General Counsel — is likely to say: “All we want is to know in advance what’s happening. Don’t hit us with last minute litigation surprises.”
That characterization is only half true. Half the job is what you would actually expect, and why someone would actually pay money for a person to do this gig: Half the job is to minimize liability. That task, at least, requires a law degree and a little bit of skill.
But, remarkably, the other half of the job — avoiding surprises — is the aspect that seemingly draws the ire of the folks who run the joint. And that task is one that the kid down the block ought to be able to do with about fifteen minutes of training: How hard can it be to avoid surprises?
Piece of cake, right? Just track developments in all of the pending cases, estimate settlement values or likely verdicts, and flood the C-suites with information. Put together a calendar of every major event in every major case over the coming six months. Winning cases can occasionally be hard, but just tracking them? Nothing to it.
Remarkably, that isn’t true. There are five main reasons why it’s hard merely to track cases (and their values) and thus to avoid surprises, and outside counsel are responsible for three of the five….
I am a graduate of a T3 law school. I was on a law journal, successfully competed in moot court competitions (regional and national) and loved my clinical experience during my third year of law school. Basically, I love the courtroom, want to be a litigator, and have seriously been searching for a public interest job for a longtime. It just hasn’t happened yet.
However, recently I had the opportunity to interview with BigLaw. It’s a Vault50 firm, with an excellent reputation (like I need to say that). However, the offer I received was for a non-legal position, in the litigation support arm of the firm. The pay isn’t great, but it’s almost in line with what most new lawyers are making anyway (those who aren’t going straight to BigLaw from OCI). Is this a smart career choice? Does the networking opportunity outweigh the cons of the position? I’m just not sure if it’s smart to wait for a real lawyer gig, or take this position and run with it, and be the best non-lawyer I can be at the law firm. Thoughts, comments, advice?
Here’s an issue that outside counsel never think about, but that matters intensely to in-house counsel: How should you charge business units for litigation losses?
For some types of cases, this poses no problem at all. If a company manufactures a prescription drug and gets named in product liability cases involving that drug, it’s pretty easy to figure out which business unit to charge for resulting judgments. (At least I assume that’s true. Perhaps some reader who works in-house at a drug company can correct me if I’m mistaken.)
But think about negligence cases in the context of a service business. At first blush, charging for litigation losses seems pretty easy: The business unit that was negligent and caused the loss should be charged for any resulting judgment.
If only it were so clear. Think about the complexities here: Some clown at the business unit screws up in 2005. The company is named in a lawsuit that’s filed in 2007. The clown changes jobs and leaves the company in 2008. The lawsuit results in a $10 million judgment in 2010. How do you account for that $10 million charge internally?
Sometimes lawyers are rude — really, really rude. And when they get extremely rude in emails with one another, sometimes the result is discipline from the bar. So, counselors, please be polite; treat each other with courtesy and respect.
The importance of common courtesy is a lesson that Florida lawyers Nicholas Mooney and Kurt Mitchell learned the hard way. After they called each other some nasty names over email, charming monikers like “scum sucking loser” and “retard,” they both wound up getting disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court.
Let’s take a closer look at their crazy correspondence, shall we?
Here in New York City, the headquarters of Above the Law, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of the Great Blizzard of 2010. Check out our slideshow for some images (like the one at right).
Although the snowstorm ended on Monday, and it’s now Wednesday night, many streets remain unplowed and many sidewalks uncleared. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, generally praised for his tremendous competence, is taking a lot of flak for the city’s inadequate response.
And that’s just in terms of politics and public relations. Wait until the lawyers get involved!
What possible causes of action could arise out of the snowstorm? Let’s discuss….
This post is a two-fer: It both suggests a way for outside lawyers to develop business more effectively and offers a tip to in-house counsel to protect their legal departments. (I bet you can hardly wait.)
First, the business development tip.
Outside lawyers often ask whether in-house lawyers are annoyed or impressed by the brochures that firms mail (or e-mail) to clients and prospective clients. I, at least, am not annoyed to receive those things. It’s awfully easy to delete things unread, so they don’t exactly impose a burden on me.
But am I impressed by the brochures? Obviously not; that’s why I now typically delete them unread.
What’s unimpressive about the brochures? Let me count the things….
It seems that Cahill Gordon isn’t the only firm putting the 2010 Cravath bonuses to shame. The elite litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey — founded in Texas, but now with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, as well as Houston and Dallas — is paying out associate bonuses as big as the Texas sky.
And, like good Texans, the folks at Susman Godfrey aren’t afraid to brag about their success. Unlike many other law firms, which play a ridiculous cat-and-mouse game with their bonus news, SG issued a press release about their bonuses. Such candor is refreshing — and shows that the firm has nothing to hide.
So how much are Susman Godfrey associates taking home this year in bonuses?
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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