In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog


When a call comes in requesting an employment reference, employers often say too little out of fear of lawsuits. To make matters worse, gone are the days of writing your worst employee a glowing reference, a la Bartleby, the Scrivener, so you don't have to feel guilty about kicking them to the curb for poor performance.

Believe it or not, providing a good reference for a bad employee can get you sued. Have you heard the one about the company that failed to disclose during a reference check that the employee in question was fired for drug use on the job? That company got sued.

So what's a company to do? Change their policy?

GC Tips for Serving as an Expert Witness

Marc Firestone, general counsel for Phillip Morris, told Congressional representatives that illegal tobacco dealers rob governments of up to $50 billion in tax revenue each year.

"Criminals are the only promoters of the global illegal tobacco trade," he reported to the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

His expert testimony highlighted a serious problem in the industry, but it also underscored a challenge that general counsel face when called upon to testify: what can you actually say?

Professional development is a major key to success, not just for lawyers, but also across many industries. Many firms and organizations happily pay for professional development that is related to your position, or to help you advance within the firm or company. Some will even provide employees with their own budget for any kind of education.

But, when your firm or company won't foot the bill for courses to help you advance, let alone your CLEs, do you really owe it to them to do job-related development? What about when they're only willing to pay for job-related courses?

Corporate Work Available: Encryption Required

Peter Beshar, general counsel at Marsh & McLennan Companies, won't shake hands with just any lawyer.

When it comes to email with outside counsel, he requires an "electronic handshake." It's a form of email encryption, which verifies the domains of two companies communicating with each other.

In a cyber-sensitive world, it's an idea that is catching on at many law firms that want to ensure client information is secure.

Facebookopolis: Legal Issues With Facebook's New Village

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have Zuckerberg money -- $62 billion and counting?

That's not going to happen for many reasons, but it's a segue to this idea: Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be Facebook's general counsel? Alright, that's a stretch, too, but we're getting to the point.

There are a lot of challenges that come with all that money and responsibility, and you may not want them. Just imagine the legal issues with Facebook's new village.

GCs Share Data on Law Firms to Spur Innovation

General counsel from 25 major companies are sharing data about their law firms, including billing rates, practice areas, and other business information.

The companies include Mastercard, Panasonic, Paypal, and others across the corporate spectrum. They are looking for more efficient legal services, and sending a message to outside counsel that times are changing.

Corporate clients have increasingly kept more matters in-house and outsourced work to legal service providers in recent years, and now they want to communicate about the changes. In their open letter, the general counsel said the industry has "struggled to innovate."

Fed Appoints New General Counsel: Meet Mark Van Der Weide

Mark Van Der Weide, a legal star who has been rising for some time, has reached a zenith in the American economy.

The Federal Reserve Board has appointed him as general counsel, following Scott G. Alvarez, a 36-year-veteran of the agency, who is retiring. Van Der Weide beat out many other veteran attorneys for the position, having ascended steadily at the Fed since 2010.

"The Board gave thorough consideration to many highly qualified internal and external candidates and Mr. Van Der Weide was chosen for his exceptional skills and experience," the Fed said in a statement.

Should You Ever Sign Agreements Over Drinks?

Some of the greatest agreements are celebrated with a toast.

But when has a party gotten out of control? When the bride passes out drunk? When a signer spills his drink on the document?

It's not much of a defense to say you were drunk at the time, especially in DUI court, but it could be a defense to enforcing an agreement if a signer loses capacity. So here's to drinking responsibly!

After a Data Breach: What Not to Do

What should you do immediately after a data breach? 1) Erase your browser history. 2) Go out for a few drinks. 3) Look for a new job.

Just kidding. But seriously, there are some common mistakes people make after discovering a data breach. Here are a few things not to do:

Tight Budgets Put Squeeze on IP Firms

When a sandstorm is coming, it's good to be a camel.

In the story, the camel inched its way into an Arab's tent for protection. First its nose, then the front feet, and finally its whole body pushed the Arab out.

Likewise, as intellectual property budgets have shrunk, companies have moved more legal work in-house and outsourced other jobs to legal service providers. In the mix, IP law firms have found themselves even more on the outside looking in.