In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

October 2013 Archives

5 Places to Look for In House Counsel Jobs

You don't really want to be in BigLaw anymore, do you? Seriously though, after five years of working 80 hour weeks, after lasting through a recession and waves of bloodletting at your firm, what more is waiting for you -- partnership? (Stifle the laughter. We know, nobody is making partner nowadays.)

If you're tired of the grind, if there is no future at your firm, you need to be looking at the next big step. And if you latch on to the right company (like Google), you'll get perks that you never dreamed of at your stuffy law firm. (Free dry cleaning, food, and on-campus gym? We're in.)

Want to make the switch? Here are five places to begin your search:

The use of captive firms in the insurance industry is both accepted and widespread. New legal trends in Australia and Britain indicate the expansion of the concept of captive firms to other industries like banking and construction, reports The Australian.

Will the U.S. follow the trend? Here are some things to consider.

Ellen Page's Video Game Shower Scene and the Streisand Effect

Beyond Two Souls is more than an ordinary video game. Most video games prioritize game play and graphics over storyline. Most have terrible voice actors and even worse plot lines. And while Beyond Two Souls has debuted to mixed reviews about its plot and game play, it stars two top-tier Hollywood stars: Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, and part of the game was screened at the 2013 Tribeca Film festival.

That alone makes the game notable, but it isn't what has brought the game free publicity over the last week or so. No, the publicity came from animated nude shower scenes, "hacked" from a debugging console, that weren't even part of the game. And as soon as Sony tried to clamp down on the leaked screen captures, the wrath of the Internet, via the Streisand Effect, made the images go viral. (Here is the semi-safe-for-work, no nudity version of the leaked video.)

New Crowdfunding Rules Proposed by SEC

Companies in Silicon Valley and beyond have been waiting with baited breath for this day: The Securities and Exchange Commission unanimously approved a proposal of crowdfunding rules to last year's Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act.

If your company funds its ventures online or is considering using crowdfunding as a litigation aid, it's time to pull out your reading glasses and peruse the 538-paged proposal before you weigh in on the matter and comment on the proposed rules.

Here are a few notable highlights of the proposed rules:

Alternative fee arrangements have been growing in popularity, especially among GCs of Fortune 1000 companies. With company budgets getting smaller, it's imperative that in-house counsel find more cost-effective ways to work with outside counsel on complex matters and litigation.

Shy about approaching outside counsel about alternative fee arrangements? Don't be. Chances are, you are not the first to raise the issue with her, and you won't be the last. If you are unsure about how to broach the subject, here are some of the most popular types of alternative fee arrangements. If you know what kinds of existing agreements are out there, you'll have something in your back pocket in case your outside counsel is at a loss.

Silicon Valley Giants Facing Labor Antitrust Class Action

Judge Lucy Koh strikes again. Last year, we called her the "most powerful woman in Silicon Valley," due to her status as the presiding judge over the Apple v. Samsung patent infringement trial. Since then, she's upheld a class-action lawsuit against Google over its email scanning practices, and now, has upheld another class-action against Google, Apple, Adobe and Intel for unfair labor practices, reports Reuters.

But, but, Google has free food, you say. And laundry, a gym, and other insane perks. They're legendary for their positive treatment of employees!

The company also, allegedly, agreed with the other defendants not to poach each other's talent. And when all of the major companies conspire to keep talent from moving around the valley, it depresses those employees' salaries and career opportunities.

Sumptuous family meals are now nearly eclipsed by two of the most important shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Referring to the Friday after Thanksgiving when retailers are finally "in the black," one could argue that the name should be changed to Black Thursday as sales are creeping into Thanksgiving dinner, reports The Wall Street Journal. Cyber Monday refers to the day everyone goes back to work and goes shopping online catches up on their assignments.

As in-house counsel to a company that sells products in retail stores, or online, there are few legal issues that you should consider for this upcoming holiday shopping season.

Innovation Act: Bad for Small Businesses with IP?

Nobody likes a patent troll. Still, even with the prevalence of frivolous litigation brought by these non-practicing entities, there remains a portion of the court's docket that is filled with legitimate claims brought by small businesses with actual, legitimate infringement claims.

We'd like to stop patent trolls in their tracks, but the remedy has to be narrowly tailored. Otherwise, we risk bringing the hammer down on both idiots and innovators alike. An act intended to spur innovation by decreasing frivolous patent litigation could have the opposite effect, and may keep smaller companies and inventors from enforcing their intellectual property rights.

What is this proposed "Innovation Act?" And what are its pros and cons for your company?

For St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, this was merely a general post announcing the appointment of Robyn Diaz, JD, as their chief legal officer. For prospective in-house attorneys, it is much more. Reading about Diaz's education and experience is like reading a case study in how to shape your career to eventually become a GC in a niche industry.

She didn't just know that she wanted to be a lawyer -- she knew her interests were specifically within the healthcare industry. Here are four things we gleaned from her background, that can show you what you can do to get your dream GC job:

Making the Jump From In-House Counsel to Business Owner

A number of attorneys are bidding adieu to their in-house corporate law gigs to pursue a business of their own. After all, in-house attorneys have a unique vantage point. They play a meaningful role in nurturing businesses from their nascence and often stick by them until their untimely (or timely) demise.

So why not toil away with your blood, sweat and tears to "raise" a business that you can actually call your own?

We've seen the writing on the wall for some time, but the Harvard Business Review Blog Network recently published a post on the decreasing popularity of "pedigreed" white shoe firms as the go-to choice for in-house counsel. Increasingly, smaller firms are getting a bigger piece of the pie.

The Two Supreme Court Cases That Could Cripple Unions

Organized labor affects us all, from in house attorneys to the poor, stranded BART riders in San Francisco. (A local radio station coined a new phrase today: "calling in BART.") And if your company deals with organized labor, you may have experience dealing with "top down" unionization or compulsory union dues.

Both of those things could become a thing of the past after the Supreme Court hears two landmark labor cases this term: Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall and Harris v. Quinn. The hype for these cases has already began, with Harvard Law School Professor Benjamin Sachs stating that Mulhall "could be the most significant labor law case in a generation."

ADR for Patents? Inter Partes Alternative Getting Rave Reviews

We've seen the figures tossed around in patent litigation. Even in frivolous suits brought by patent trolls, the cost of defending against infringement claims can be in the millions of dollars. And much like civil litigation, the high costs have necessitated a form of alternative dispute resolution: the inter partes review.

Instead of filing a lawsuit, instead of engaging in extensive discovery, a third-party can request that the patent office reexamine the patentability of one or more claims in a patent. The review is based only on prior art from patents or printed publications. For truly frivolous patents, this  means significant savings for a defendant. And while it may not be as satisfying as leaving trolls with the check (via fee-shifting, which is getting increased attention), it certainly is quicker and far less risky.

Corporate Responsibility (CR) Magazine recently released the results of its annual corporate bad reputation survey, done in conjunction with Allegis Group Services, polling over 1,000 people (employed and unemployed) about hiring and corporate reputation. The survey found that 69% of people polled "would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed," reports PRNewswire.

If your company is one of the unfortunate ones with a bad reputation, it could be spending millions in extra costs for recruiting, according to the survey. Here are five things your company can do to begin mending its reputation, and saving money on recruiting costs.

Meet Thomas C. Shanahan: New VP & General Counsel of UNC System

Last week, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors appointed Thomas C. Shanahan as the new Vice President and General Counsel of the 17-campus UNC system.

Wondering how to snag a sweet in-house spot in the higher-education realm? You may want to borrow a page from Shanahan's playbook.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval refused to dismiss the indictments against Kurt E. Mix, the former BP engineer who deleted his texts in the face of impending litigation, reports The Associated Press.

This case is a prime example of the importance of having a corporate policy regarding text messaging: As the ways people use technology for business expands, so does the scope of e-discovery.

Working Mother has declared the third Tuesday of National Work and Family Month, National Flex Day. As the first year noting this momentous occasion, tomorrow is National Flex Day, a day to promote the "power of flexible work arrangements."

Upcoming SCOTUS Cases Can Help in the War Against Patent Trolls

Patent trolls are a rising problem in this country. These non-practicing entities purchase patents, attempt to enforce rights by threatening litigation, even over the most questionable of claims, and they often profit, as settlements are paid out to avoid the cost of litigation. Even when they do file litigation, there is little downside for the trolls, because many of them are attorneys. The high cost of litigating is mitigated by handling the legal work themselves.

Earlier this year, the White House proposed a list of reforms meant to fight patent trolling. A few days later, Chief Judge Randall Rader, of the Federal Circuit, penned an op-ed supporting one of the reforms, fee-shifting, though he noted that fee-shifting is already authorized by Section 285 of the Patent Act, as well as Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Do You Use Telemarketing or Text Messaging? New Rules to Follow

It just cost Bank of America a record $32 million in a settlement. An Illinois attorney recently was ordered to pay $4.2 million under this law. And other large businesses, such as DirecTV and Dish Network have pending litigation in related matters.

What is it? The Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the FCC's regulations authorized by the statute, violations of which carry a penalty of between $500 and $1,500 per unsolicited call, text, or fax. And next week, starting on October 16, 2013, the rules become even more strict.

October may be the official month for all things pink, but it also happens to be National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This year in particular is an important year because it marks the 10th Anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Though you won't find products of any particular hue in stores to mark this occasion, we're offering up some resources and tips to help you make your company a digitally safer place to work.

How to Land a Speaking Engagement: 5 Tips for In-House Counsel

Speaking engagements help shape in-house counsel's reputation in the legal and business community. It simultaneously helps with branding yourself (Note: In a good way) and getting your company some positive exposure.

Here's a quick checklist to keep in mind when trying to score a speaking engagement:

The 1980s phenomenon of wrestling with big names like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and The Undertaker is still around -- and, a big business at that. Consider: World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. ("WWE") has ten offices around the world, broadcasts in 150 countries in thirty languages and has a total reach of 650 million homes, according to Business Wire.

Yet maybe WWE needed a woman's touch because today is the first day for their new general counsel -- Laura Brevetti, reports the New York Law Journal. What Brevetti lacks in a clever stage name and spandex get-up, she more than makes up for in brains, talent and experience.

BP Oil Spill Payouts Slowed for Review of Tenuous Claims

It's hard to feel bad for a multi-billion dollar oil titan whose Deepwater Horizon mishap caused immeasurable damage to the Gulf Coast, its ecological system, and the thousands of businesses that operate in the area, but let's give credit where credit is due: they are paying billions for their mistake.

The problem is, they may be paying too much. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just ordered the district court to issue an injunction to halt payouts in certain cases, after BP complained of tenuous claims being upheld by the claims administrator and the court's loose interpretation of the settlement agreement. In one claim cited by Bloomberg, there was a $21 million payout to a rice mill 40 miles inland, which actually had increased revenue the year of the spill.

Bright Spot in Legal Market: In House Counsel Hiring Up ... Again

Survey says? In-house hiring is up again, with 59 percent of ALM survey respondents reporting an increase in hiring of lawyers in the past year, up from 51 percent last year, and 44 and 39 percent in the two preceding years, reports the ABA Journal. Add it all up, and you have a long-term trend of a growing job market.

As for companies cutting back, only 21 percent planned to do so, down from 24, 28, and 33 percent over the three preceding years. Again, it's a sign of progress for at least one sector of the legal industry. It's not just the one survey either -- HBR Consulting's survey found a 3 percent increase worldwide in companies' total legal spending in 2012, according to a press release.

It's that time of year, the 2013 ACC Annual Meeting is fast approaching -- are you going? This year's ACC Annual Meeting will take place in Los Angeles from October 27 - 30, which is great because you'll still make it home in time to see the kids in their Halloween costumes.

If you're on the fence about attending, here are five reasons why you should consider going.

Top 5 Reasons Employees Quit and What You Can Do About It

As we saw from the woman who quit her job through a two-minute interpretive dance video set to Kanye West's "Gone," keeping employees happy, engaged and loyal is essential to preventing an ex-employee viral social media sensation at the company's expense.

But how do you crack the code of what makes employees disenchanted enough to literally shimmy out the door? The formula for a happy workplace may more of an art than science (sometimes literally), but there are a few common pressure-points that can trigger the employee tipping-point-of-no-return.

With a hat tip to Forbes, here are five common reasons employees voluntarily quit their jobs: