In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

March 2016 Archives

A good in-house attorney is a generalist, able to move from complex compliance issues to corporate strategizing to internal H.R. disputes and back again. But being a jack of all trades shouldn't make you a master of none.

There are plenty of skills in-house counsel need to master in order to succeed. With that in mind, here are our top corporate counsel skill posts, from the FindLaw archives.

Important Affordable Care Act employer deadlines are fast approaching. With those deadlines comes the threat of significant penalties, should required information be improperly filed, or not filed at all.

If your company is an "applicable large employer," and odds are it is, you've got some work to do. Thankfully, you don't have to do it all alone. A new special report from Thomson Reuters Checkpoint can get you up to speed with employer information reporting requirements. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.)

Utah Approves White-Collar Crime Registry

There are the sex-offender registries, and then there's the white-collar crime registry. Utah can take credit for being the first state to pioneer such a thing.

The registry seems to have sprung out of a need to keep track of the state's rising incidents of something known as "affinity fraud."

As soon as this week, Time Warner Cable could finally find the buyer it's spent years searching for, should federal regulators approve the $67.1 billion deal. But Time Warner isn't the only big name looking to be bought up these days.

From insurance, to retail, to railroads, companies are pursuing mergers left and right. Here are five that we've got our eye on.

Is Your Company Ready for the DOL New Overtime Rule?

It all happened a lot faster than any had anticipated -- or even hoped. The Department of Labor's proposed overtime regulations, which originated in President Obama's push to modernize federal labor laws two years ago, is just about to become reality.

It just got a little easier for in-house and transactional attorneys to know if their legal documents meet current standards. Thomson Reuters's Drafting Assistant, the only end-to-end transactional drafting software solution in the world, just added a new "locate precedent" feature that allows you to compare your draft to similar documents, one clause at a time. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.)

That means greater confidence, quicker drafting, and many fewer errors sneaking through. That's great news for in-house attorneys.

Your job is to make sure the company is dotting its I's, crossing its T's, and generally staying on the right side of the law. In other words, compliance. Regulatory compliance should be one of the largest parts of any legal department's work.

And though the law moves slowly, it does move, so in-house counsel need to stay on top of the latest compliance trends.

Contract Management for In-House: Let Technology Do the Heavy Lifting

If you're an in-house lawyer -- particularly for a large company -- you'll know the pain of endless juggling of contracts. It is estimated that the average Fortune 1000 company maintains between 20,000 to 40,000 active contracts. Yikes.

Smaller companies of course deal with contract numbers that are much smaller, but it would be wrong to say that in-house lawyers' lives in those companies are much easier. How does an in-house for a small company deal with it all?

Pros and Cons of Being a Solo General Counsel

It's one thing to be in house counsel; it's another thing to be general counsel. If you're general counsel, you're it. Things get even hairier if you're solo general counsel. The legal position of the executives and the entire company essentially rests on your professional legal opinion because you're the only one around in your immediate company that's passed the bar. The way you stand on a particular issue could mean feast or famine for your company. No pressure.

Being general counsel certainly does much to burnish your ego, but have you considered some the overall pros and cons of being general counsel?

Walk through your corporate halls today and you might see something new on your colleague's computer screens. Next to Word, Excel, Facebook, and Slack, everyone is checking their March Madness bracket.

Is March Madness a largely harmless time suck, an inappropriate (and possibly illegal) example of gambling at the office, or the perfect corporate bonding opportunity? It depends on how you handle it.

Chipotle's Social Media Rules Violated Labor Laws

When James Kennedy criticized his employer Chipotle over their wages in the form of a Tweet, he found himself suddenly without a job. According to the opinion of ALJ Susan A. Flynn, Chipotle's actions ran afoul of the National Labor Relations Act.

In a somewhat embarrassing twist for Chipotle, the company is also being forced to post signs around its eateries informing employees about how it violated the law.

Lionsgate Hires New Deputy General Counsel, Audrey Lee

Audrey Lee's career began with a bang and has been on a tear ever since. Her latest advancement? Lionsgate.

The Canadian-American production company that brought you Divergent and Insurgent and Allegiant has just named 14-year Sony veteran Audrey Lee as its new Executive Vice President and Deputy General Counsel. The news was announced by Wayne Levin, Lionsgate's Chief Strategic Officer, General Counsel and, now, Lee's boss.

We know, you're a lawyer, not head of H.R. But we also know that bad human resource management can easily land companies in hot water. We see it every day. Instituting a few proactive H.R. policies can help you reduce your company's risk of litigation or government enforcement actions.

Here are seven human resource and employment policies that we think every in-house attorney should consider.

In case you haven't been reading the tabloids lately, Gawker, the Internet gossip site, is currently facing a $100 million lawsuit by Hulk Hogan, the 80's professional wrestling superstar.

Gawker, you see, posted an illicit video of Hogan having sex with a friend's wife, but the real shocker is how poorly Gawker's editors performed when deposed. Gawker's terrible showing is a helpful reminder to the rest of us: never cut corners when it comes to prepping high-level employees for litigation.

Last September, just as the Volkswagen emissions fraud was being revealed, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates declared that there would be significant changes to the way the Department of Justice handled corporate misdeeds. That memorandum, now known as the Yates Memo, made it clear that when corporations break the law, individuals will be held accountable.

Now, six months later, we're starting to see just how that might play out, and it could end up reducing corporate cooperation in enforcement actions.

If you're an attorney who wants to move into the legal department, we don't blame you. A job as in-house counsel offers benefits that firm life just doesn't -- like, the ability to go home before dark. (At least sometimes.) If you're a current in-house attorney looking for a new legal department to make your home, we don't blame you either. Changing jobs every once in a while can be a good way to improve your skill set, expand your resume, and increase your pay.

Whatever is driving you to look for a new in-house position, we're here to help. Here are FindLaw's seven best job-searching, in-housing posts.

Attorneys have been cloud-cautious for awhile, worried about potential breaches of confidential data and other legal considerations. But that hasn't stopped them from jump onboard -- and they lag well behind businesses generally.

But it's not just law firms who should think carefully about their cloud usage. According to a recent survey, 88 percent of businesses with over 100 employees have to comply with some regulatory standards when using the cloud. But don't worry, a few corporate policies can help make cloud usage and regulatory compliance easier.

When you bring someone onto your team, whether they're an attorney or legal secretary, you're making an investment. And you want to make sure you get the most out of it. That means not only finding great candidates, but keeping your top talent around.

But hanging on to top talent isn't easy. About a quarter of all employees are actively looking to change jobs, and talented ones should have no problem finding a new place to work. So you'll have to make it worth their while to stick around. Here are five tips to help you do just that.

For the first time ever, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed two lawsuits over sexual orientation discrimination.

Both suits are brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which does not explicitly prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Rather, the suits rely on the EEOC's relatively new interpretation that Title VII's prohibition on sex-based discrimination also covers anti-LGBT bias.

Data security remains a top concern among in-house counsel and for good reason. A breach can bring hefty fines, result in expensive litigation, and damage a brand. But breaches are also preventable.

If you're not already taking action to ensure your cybersecurity, or if you need to step your game up (and we all do), here's a quick refresher course.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser All But Kills Mega-Energy Merger of Pepco-Exelon

It looks like the very expensive deal that was set to create the nation's largest utility just about got killed thanks to some rather unexpected developments in which District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser withdrew her support, according to the Associated Press. The proposal is "not in the public interest," said she.

Bowser and other interested parties are facing a ticking clock. The general skeleton of a new deal must be fleshed out by March 11. And with $250 million already in the hole, Exelon is unlikely to take this bump in the road lying down.

You check your work email on your phone, have a copy of your weekly schedule on your personal tablet, and access company docs from both your work and home PCs. Welcome to the age of BYOD: bring your own device.

BYOD policies -- be they official or informal -- allow employees to bring their personally-owned tech devices to the workplace and use them to access privileged information. And with BYOD comes plenty of risk. Here's how corporate counsel can help protect against them.

Billable Hours Are Back for Some In-House Attorneys

Apart from the motivation of having much more independence, going in-house traditionally meant that lawyers could do away with the drudgery of having to track their hours. Working in-house generally meant that lawyers would work to complete and fix problems.

Recent chatter in the legal rumor-mill suggests that more and more in-house lawyers have taken to keeping track of their hours voluntarily. Here, we briefly look at some of the reasons that might be behind this trend.