In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

May 2013 Archives

Want Contract In-House Work for a Tech Startup? Call Flex

Are contract in-house attorneys necessary? Fenwick & West thinks so. The Silicon Valley law firm offers a unique program for its clients who are not ready to hire a full-time in-house attorney, but still need an affordable lawyer for licensing and contract work.

The "Flex by Fenwick" program is also an opportunity for attorneys looking to be in-house at a range of Silicon Valley startups. Their "Flex Plans" offer their clients options of hiring a Flex attorney on a quarterly or a weekly model. An attorney can expect to get a project that can range from a few hours per week, to a couple of days, and up to full-time.

SCOTUS to Hear LCD Price-Fixing Case; Parens Patrie Sovereignty

How does one define a class-action lawsuit? A suit is brought on behalf of a group of aggrieved consumers. A high-priced lawyer is attached to the case. Typically, a big settlement is reached, and the members of the class are compensated in some way.

What about a suit by a state attorney general "on behalf of" the citizens? It's a suit, on behalf of a group of aggrieved customers. Often, high-price lawyers are attached for their expertise. And consumers often end up with compensation or restitution.

Are they one-and-the-same? If so, does the Class Action Fairness Act mandate removal of a state's lawsuit, brought in state court, to federal courts?

Considering Crowdfunding as a Litigation Aid? You Should.

The tech industry is experiencing a boom in patent litigation and it's going to shut some, maybe many doors. These claims are costly and time consuming and can even put a small or unprepared company out of business.

One company threatened by the high cost of patent litigation is Ditto. Ditto is an eye glass website that offers users the option to digitally try on glasses on their website. They are facing a patent infringement lawsuit by 1-800-Contacts and Lennon Imaging Technology for allegedly using their patented 3D technology. This lawsuit could shut their doors, but they're utilizing crowdfunding to offset their litigation costs.

ACC Files Amicus in Landmark CA Supreme Ct. Employment Arb. Case

Arshavir Iskanian was a limo driver for CLS Transportation in Los Angeles. In an unremarkable turn of events, the relationship soured and Iskanian sued, alleging labor law violations, specifically a failure to pay overtime, provide breaks, and reimburse employee expenses.

Despite an arbitration clause in his employment contract, Iskanian sued under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the state’s department of labor for violations of labor laws. California quite cleverly provides a bounty to aggrieved employees. The employee sues on the state’s behalf, and if they win, they keep 25 percent of the recovery from the PAGA claims (plus whatever they’d get from their own claims).

State of Vermont Sues Patent Troll

The State of Vermont filed a lawsuit against a patent troll company for allegedly violating the state’s consumer protection laws. The company is accused of threatening small businesses and non-profits of patent infringement lawsuits if they do not pay licensing fees to them.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a statement that this is believed to be the first time that a state is suing a patent troll company. There have been efforts lately to crack down on the problem of patent trolls, including some from Congress. Patent trolls have been found to make up 56 percent of the federal patent infringement lawsuits filed in 2012.

Kia's In-House Counsel Shrinks Bills with Computer Skills Test

What constitutes computer competency? How about attorney competency?

The answers might be closer to each other than you think. Earlier this year, the ABA revised their model rules to emphasize two duties relevant to both questions: keeping up to date on relevant technology and protecting clients’ sensitive electronic data.

That means computer competency, for attorneys, requires a lot more than simple typing skills. It might also require proficiency with PDF files, Bates-numbering, and Excel, at least, if you want to be outside counsel for a multi-national auto manufacturer.

The Gang of Eight just got one step closer to creating more paths for workers of all levels to come to the U.S. legally. The comprehensive immigration reform bill is set to head to the full Senate after the Judiciary Committee approved the bill 13-5 on Tuesday night.

As a nation and as lawyers representing many small and large U.S. companies, we are closely watching the developments of this controversial bipartisan bill that will affect our businesses.

FindLaw's Guide to Achieving Legal and Human Resources Harmony

Ah, the life of in-house counsel. You were hired after a decade in a BigLaw, tackling transactional work. Now, in addition to structuring your company’s big moves, you handle everything else, from IP protection to litigation, including employment disputes.

Now consider your Human Resources personnel. They probably aren’t lawyers, yet everything they do is governed by some important law. Heath plan administration? HIPPA. Hiring and on-boarding? More laws than we care to list. Discipline and termination? Ditto, both at the state and the federal level.

They aren’t lawyers. You are. Even if you aren’t an employment law guru, you’ve got your work cut out for you. A great place to start is the brief (and free) FindLaw Guide to Counseling the Human Resources Department.

Will Our Costly Legal System Cost You Your Job?

We know that the U.S is a highly litigious society, but did you know the U.S. legal system is the most costly, too?

The way our legal system works is problematic for companies, large and small. The costs of doing business will be increased by the high costs of litigation and budget cuts that will inevitably be made for businesses to survive in this economic climate. Don't let your job be on the chopping board.

Another Circuit Invalidates Obama's NLRB Recess Appointments

The Third Circuit boldly went where the D.C. Circuit had gone before, and invalidated President Obama’s intrasession recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board.

In doing so, they also invalidated the board’s pro-union ruling in New Vista, and shed doubt on all of the NLRB’s decisions since the disputed appointment of Craig Becker in March 2010 (he stepped down in 2012). As the Wall Street Journal notes, this is a greater time period, and therefore more decisions in jeopardy, than the appointments axed by the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in Noel Canning.

It also presumably adds additional urgency to the pending writ for certiorari to the Supreme Court in the appeal of the D.C. Circuit’s landmark ruling.

Get Your Internship Policies Up to Date

Last week's Hearst decision may have been a victory for employers, but it doesn't mean all unpaid internships are legal.

The unpaid interns lost on a procedural note -- class certification -- before the case even reached the merits. And while the reverberations from that decision, as well as the Supreme Court's decisions in Comcast and Dukes, will be felt for years by class-action plaintiffs, your company still needs to review its unpaid internship policy.

As a wise man once told me, "Expect the worst -- you'll never be disappointed."

Former hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard participated in 174 career fights during his time in professional hockey, according to Boston University researchers. That's more than many professional boxers.

The fights apparently took a toll on the former New York Ranger, NPR reports. In May of 2011, Boogaard died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and oxycodone allegedly prescribed by team doctors. Now, Boogaard's family has filed a wrongful death suit against the National Hockey League, claiming that the league was negligent in exposing Boogaard to frequent head trauma and failing to offer him adequate care.

Hearst Magazines' Unpaid Interns 'Dukes'd' Out of Court

"To mix a metaphor, while half a loaf is better than none, plaintiffs' argument here just doesn't cut the mustard."

While we don't know what Judge Harold Baer meant by that, nor why he made references to "meat on the Walling bones" and "make the cheese more binding" (somebody skipped lunch), we do know one thing: class action law in a post-Dukes and post-Comcast world is a dying field.

The Hearst Magazine unpaid interns, led by plaintiff Xuedan Wang, who were seeking minimum wage back-pay for more than 3,000 students were brought on to work at the magazine, without pay, in the name of "valuable experience."

NY to Sue: BofA, Wells Fargo Violated $25 Bn. Mortgage Settlement

Last year, 49 attorneys general from 49 states came to a landmark $25 billion settlement agreement with the nation’s biggest banks. The agreement was reached after the individual states looked into foreclosure paperwork and process abuses, such as robo-signing, that were costing some consumers thousands of dollars in fees, and other consumers, their homes.

Surprisingly or not, the banks that perpetrated the “sloppy” or “corrupt” practices (opinions vary) haven’t completely cleaned up their act and, in response, a few states are planning to take action.

Many policies that are meant to help working mothers end up being double-edged swords: they improve mothers' work-life balance at the expense of career advancement. Telecommuting, for example, is a great way for moms to spend more time with their kids, but it can also put them at a disadvantage when a promotion is up for grabs.

With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, it's the perfect time to review your company's policies regarding working moms. To help you get started, below, we've covered a few common policies and how they can adversely affect working moms.

Target Targeted by NLRB for 'Non-Solicitation' Policy

Is there anything more annoying than being accosted by solicitors outside of a grocery store? Your skin is charred by a sunburn, you are in pain, and in a desperate need of Aloe gel. Instead, there are three charities, four chirping Girl Scouts, and a representative of a cult-like institution clamoring for your attention as you run, red-faced, into the store.

It's enough to make you want to shop elsewhere. This is why many stores now have non-solicitation policies. Of course, some say that the purpose of these non-solicitation policies goes beyond commercial solicitation or annoying beggars. They argued that the true purpose was to block out unions, reports Reuters.

Vance Can Proceed to Trial Against Former Goldman Sachs Programmer

If contemplating code theft at your company keeps you awake at night, there's news in the Goldman Sachs code theft case that may help you sleep.

Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. computer programmer Sergey Aleynikov can be charged under New York law for stealing code from the global finance giant, Reuters reports.

Monster Beverages Sues SF City Attny; Continues to Fight Regulation

Respect the hustle.

Anyone remember when energy drinks became a “thing”? Way back in my college days, I tasted my first Monster at a sponsored event at UC Davis. It was an odd beverage, overly-carbonated with a too-sweet sour apple flavor. I choked it down quickly (why waste a free drink, after all?). The energy rush carried me through the day’s festivities, including turns conquering the climbing wall.

To this day, I still consume energy drinks, though I’ve long since made the switch to diet. (Diet was far easier to chug during a pre-finals cram session.) Monster’s college marketing paid off, for me and likely thousands of other students. And few would take issue with a company marketing a safe (when consumed in moderation) and legal product to college kids.

What about marketing that same product to children?