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Microsoft Plans to Phase Out Billable Hours

If you are lucky enough to have Microsoft as a client, don't complain that the company will not pay your hourly fees.

The company has announced that it will no longer pay hourly attorney's fees, opting for alternative billing arrangements with select law firms. It's a two-year project, but the future is almost here.

As in-house counsel know, the alternative fee agreement is the new normal. Outside counsel should consider themselves lucky to get the business.

When you choose an outside counsel, you do it after vetting the firm, and the attorneys that will be in charge of your matter. But when that firm decides to merge with another firm, or your specifically chosen outside counsel decides to move to a new firm, or hang their own shingle, what's an in-house attorney to do?

While it might be natural to panic and preemptively clear your calendar when you find out that your outside counsel is switching firms or their firm is merging with another practice, it should not require you to go into crisis, or damage control, mode. You don't need to frantically restart the search for new outside counsel ... yet. Remain calm, gather as much information as possible about what's going on, and plan accordingly.

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."

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.

U.S. Companies Outspend Everyone on Legal

It's a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie, but with thousands of undead attorneys walking the streets, arms out-stretched, grabbing at anyone in their way.

It's not that hard to image in the United States, which has more lawyers than any other country. And according to a new report, American companies dramatically outspend the rest of the world on legal services.

Talk about a corporate nightmare!

If the legal profession ever becomes more representative of America's demographics, it might be because of in-house lawyers like you. More and more, major corporate legal departments are requiring that their outside counsel invest in diversity.

The most recent corporate client to flex some pro-diversity muscle is Facebook. This weekend, the company institute a new diversity mandate for its outside counsel, the New York Times reports. Under the new policy, teams handling legal matters for Facebook must be at least one-third minority or female.

Corporate clients are spending significantly less on legal services than they once did. In the last year alone, legal spend has dropped 11 percent on average, according to a new survey from Bloomberg Law and the Buying Legal Council. The most successful teams were able to cut their spending by 23 percent, or nearly a quarter.

So, how'd they do it?

Retail Apocalypse Means Business for Employment Counsel

Retail apocalypse.

It conjures up images of angry workers, desolate parking lots, dogs and cats living together ...

Well, angry workers and desolate parking lots will be at the mall closures for sure. Dogs and cats living together, only if a pet store chain is closing.

In any case, the retail apocalypse is coming and it's not going to be pretty. More than 3,500 mall-based stores are shutting down in the biggest wave of retail closures since the Great Recession.

It's not the end of the world; it's just the end of thousands of stores and an untold number of jobs. But as lawyers say, one man's tragedy is another attorney's opportunity.

Great Cities, New Opportunities for Women in Legal Tech

Recent reports revealed the best cities for women in tech jobs and new opportunities for women lawyers in the tech industry.

According to an annual report, Washington, D.C. is the best city in the country for women in tech jobs for the third year in a row. Forbes reported that 41 percent of the tech jobs are held by women. There is a pay gap -- with women earning 94 percent of what mean earn on average -- but the pay is higher than the national average of 84 percent.

Silicon Valley, with the highest concentration of tech jobs in the country, has traditionally been low in the annual report on women in tech. But more women are taking top legal jobs in the wider San Francisco Bay Area.