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6 Tips for Delegating Legal Work

There is no class on delegation in law school.

The closest thing is a lecture on the non-delegation doctrine, which teaches that Congress cannot delegate certain duties to administrative agencies. So what is an attorney to do when it comes to knowing how to delegate legal tasks?

Because developing delegation skills is not part of legal education, corporate counsel need to learn from other disciplines and mentors in the workplace. Charles A. Volkert, writing for Minority Corporate Counsel Association, says delegating offers distinct advantages for both managing counsel and the people they lead.

"By communicating a more holistic view of company goals and enhancing project- and team-management abilities, counsel can help their departments meet the complex challenges they face today," he says.

Here are some tips:

In April, the Department of Labor finalized rules for financial advisors handling retirement accounts, requiring, for the first time, that broker-dealers and financial advisors act in the best interests of their clients. Choosing suitable investments will no longer be enough; there's now a fiduciary duty to "put the customer first."

So, how are firms preparing for the change? With lawyers. Lots of lawyers. (And a bit of retraining on the side.)

The company is being accused of wrongdoing. Charges of sexual harassment, regulatory noncompliance, or unfair trade practices have been levied. Litigation has started, or is on the horizon.

Should you turn to a private investigator to help prepare? A private dick can help you find out key facts, Sam Spade style. But they can also land companies in hot water, as a recent lawsuit against Uber illustrates.

Does data analytics have a place in the in-house legal department? At more and more companies, the answer is yes.

With increasing frequency, forward thinking in-house attorneys are turning to big data and data analytics to identify risks and ensure compliance. Here's how.

Your cell phones keep exploding. Your cars have been cheating emissions tests. There's E. coli in your burritos. Whatever the reason, your company needs to recall its products -- and that can cost quite a bit.

Sure, general liability insurance will probably cover you if your product results in injuries before being recalled, but you might need special insurance to deal with the additional damages, like lost profits, reputation damage, and significant disruption to your business, that a product recall can cause.

Consider ransomware a form of digital kidnapping. Ransomware takes over your computers, encrypts your most essential files, then demands payment or else your data gets it. And such attacks have become increasingly common, especially in industries that hold sensitive information, such as healthcare organizations.

Dealing with these electronic hostage takers can leave computer systems disturbed for days, even weeks, and cost tens of thousands of dollars to rectify. But even if you have cyber insurance, your policy may not cover a ransomware attack.

A data breach can tarnish a company's reputation and end up costing millions. And yet, when companies consider new acquisitions, questions about data and cybersecurity often go unasked.

That could be changing, though, as corporations start adding cybersecurity to their pre-M&A due diligence, sniffing out a potential partner's "data hygiene" before any deal is done.

Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in fines yesterday, after years of opening more than two million fake bank accounts and credit cards in the names of the bank's real customers. The scandal is particularly notable given how widespread the illegal banking practices were -- over several years, Wells Fargo fired more than 5,000 employees for engaging in the fraud, but never ended the practice entirely. Now, some are calling for even more heads to roll.

How can you make sure you don't find yourself in a similar position? While the fallout from the revelation continues to play out, here are some of the initial lessons in-house counsel can learn from the scandal.

An aggressive confidentiality policy could find you on the wrong side of a host of laws. An employment agreement that limits what information employees can share with investigators may constitute unlawful "pretaliation," according to the SEC. Even severance agreements that explicitly allow for certain disclosures can violate Dodd-Frank's whistleblowing rules.

And that's not all. According to a recent article in Inside Counsel, your company's confidentiality rules could also be unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act if they limit workers' ability to talk to each other about internal investigations -- even if your workplace is not unionized.

Religion in the Workplace: A Primer for In-House Lawyers

There are a number of things that should not be discussed casually at the office: politics, compensation, and of course, religion. Employees will inevitable bumble into these topics, which is usually okay. But things start getting dicey when the employer starts making decisions based on the political information he or she learned over the water cooler.

In-house counsel should be equipped with a solid understanding of religious discrimination in the workplace in order to best advise their corporate clients.