In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Recently in Outside Counsel Category

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.

Setting Deadlines for Outside Counsel

Einstein showed us that time is relative. For example, an astronaut on a rocketship will age slower than a pedestrian standing on Earth. Don't bother trying to figure it out, it's in the math.

Attorneys show us that time also expands. For example, a lawyer takes more time without a deadline to accomplish a task. Check your bill; that's in the math also.

As in-house counsel, it's important to make sure time is not so relative or expansive when it comes to outside counsel. Here are some tips:

A Primer on Relevance and Proportionality

Rodney King, that unexpected voice of reason in a wilderness of social chaos, put it this way: "Can't we all just get along?"

It's a catchphrase that can serve in the most complex situations, including discovery disputes. A judge may not quote Rodney, but the admonition still rings true and lawyers should take note.

When the federal discovery rules changed in 2015 to deal with the potential for massive eDiscovery disputes -- from the "reasonably calculated" standard to a "relevance and proportionality" standard -- one thing did not change: judges want lawyers to sort out their own discovery disputes.

Here are some pointers for in-house counsel, who have the bottom-line responsibility for limiting expensive and time-consuming waste of legal resources in discovery:

HP Holds Back Fees to Encourage Diversity

Remember when we were kids, and our parents withheld our allowance or another privilege to compel certain behavior?

Or if you have kids now, and you turn off their cell phone to get across the message that you expect compliance with certain rules?

Well, say hello to some parental persuasion from Hewlett-Packard. Starting now, the rule is: be diverse or lose 10 percent of your fees.

According to Kim Rivera, chief legal officer and general counsel for HP, the company has implemented a "diversity holdback" mandate. "With this we can hold back up to 10 percent of all invoices billed by law firms that do not meet or exceed our minimal diverse staffing requirements," she said in a letter to law firm partners.

ACC Renews 'Value Challenge' to Help Law Departments Reduce Costs

It may not be as eye-popping as the ice bucket challenge for a coach at the end of a game, but then again you're not going to get wet with the corporate counsel "value challenge" and it just might open your eyes to new opportunities.

The Association of Corporate Counsel is continuing its challenge to help law departments reduce costs by re-imagining and better managing resources. Each year, the ACC acknowledges the winners by publishing their stories on its website.

Besides the accolades of industry recognition, the goal of the international challenge is for corporate counsel to: 1) reduce legal spending by 25 percent; 2) promote effective budgeting and fee structures; and 3) have fewer disputes, lower settlements, and faster turnarounds. For these companies, as they say in soccer, goal!!!

Insourcing v. Outsourcing: The Dance of Legal Work

It's not as catchy as dancing the hokey-pokey, but corporate attorneys increasingly put one foot in and one foot out in the legal marketplace.

For in-house counsel, it's about balancing the bottom line between outsourcing or insourcing legal work. On the other side of the dance, outside counsel have to bend with changing demands for legal services.

The trend is toward insourcing core attorney work while outsourcing more legal tasks. As a result, lawyers are having to take a step back and reassess their skills.

Mark A. Cohen, a former corporate attorney and litigator, said law firms are feeling the squeeze. That's because legal service providers want the next dance.

What Are Your Goals as In-House Counsel This Year?

It's well past New Year's Day -- except in China and other southeast Asian countries -- but it's not too late to make resolutions for 2017.

In fact, if you work in-house for a multi-national or a company aspiring to grow into the international market, this may be the perfect time to make some goals.

With cyber criminals hacking away at internet services around the world, company attorneys must work strategically with technical professionals to avert future disasters. And as automakers choke on legal setbacks from Japan to Germany, their lawyers must be prepared to deal with civil and criminal challenges.

Here are a few areas that will definitely come into play for in-house counsel no matter where you work: