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Google Hires First GC for Self-Driving Car Biz

Perhaps sensing blood in the water because of Tesla's driverless car legal troubles, Google Alphabet's self-driving car arm has named its first general counsel -- just in time for increased scrutiny by U.S. regulators over autonomous driving vehicle technology.

Google has said publicly that there is no current timetable for releasing self-driving cars to the public. And after the recent unwelcome attention to the sector, we can understand the cautionary language.

When it comes to practicing in-house, attorneys occupy a unique position. Their duty is to their client, the company, but they are also bound by ethical responsibilities more so than other employees. And how in-house attorneys respond to ethical dilemmas depends on a variety of factors, from their own personal ethical standards to the infrastructure of the company in which they work.

Now, a new survey of 400 in-house lawyers by University College London has taken a detailed look at how corporate attorneys deal with ethical challenges -- including a taxonomy of in-house "ethical identities," ranging from ethical idealists raging against potential malfeasance to those who just shrug their shoulders and go along. Where do you think you fall?

Before Britain can begin its withdrawal from the European Union, it will have to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which allows EU members to begin their divorce from the Union.

But if you've entered into agreements and contracts that have been frustrated by the Brexit, you too might be able to invoke some clauses of your own. Corporate lawyers may be able to rely on so-called "Brexit clauses" in contract boilerplate to get out of deals that have been soured by Britain's refusal to remain in the Union -- and pretty much every contract has them.

In a globalized marketplace, in-house counsel are increasingly called upon to address international issues. And recent events have made knowledge of international law and business even more important, as a potential Brexit threatens to upend European markets and as the U.S. moves to crack down (or not) on international bribery.

To help give you a hand in handling international matters, here are our top tips on international law and business, from the FindLaw archives.

More Whistleblower Profits: SEC Gives Second Biggest Award

On June 9th, the SEC announced its second largest award given under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program: $17,000,000. The money will be paid to the anonymous individual that supplied the agency with information that eventually led to the successful investigation of fraudulent practices in securities. This monumental sum, however, pales in comparison to the $30M award paid in September of 2014.

There's been a lot of talk about general counsel becoming a more integral part of the corporate leadership team. But nothing pushes in-house counsel into a position of influence like a significant legal crisis.

Case in point: Heather Dietrick, Gawker Media's president and general counsel. After joining the company three years ago, Dietrick has shepherded the online blog network through a series of legal defeats, as best as one can, and has found herself in a leadership position that's fairly unique among general counsel.

Bank of America cannot claim attorney-client privilege for legal documents shared between it and Countrywide during their 2008 merger, New York's highest court ruled yesterday. The documents were passed between each company's lawyers during merger discussions, but before the union had been completed. The bank may now be compelled to release those legal communications, made at the height of the subprime mortgage crisis and ensuing Great Recession.

The ruling is a blow to Bank of America, which had sought to protect the documents, which may reveal to what extent Countrywide considered its liability for fraud connected to its mortgage-backed loans.

For three decades, Geoffrey Chism worked with Tri-State Construction, a construction company in the Pacific Northwest, first as outside counsel, then general counsel and sole in-house attorney. In that role, Chism renegotiated his salary and bonus agreements, then sued Tri-State a few years later for failing to honor them. After a month-long jury trial, Chism won $1.5 million.

But the judge, finding "numerous misrepresentations and omissions" in Chism's negotiations with Tri-State, ordered him to disgorge $1.1 million of that award. The ruling shocked many in-house attorneys. But in-house lawyers can breathe a sigh of relief now, as the trial court's disgorgement order was recently reversed on appeal.

Facebook Recruits Bay Area Judge as In-House Counsel

The world's most popular social networking company just hired a sitting judge to join its legal team instead of turning to the legal gray matter of other Silicon Valley companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. It's a nice touch.

The hiring of that judge, U.S Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal, hardly seems coincidental. After all, Facebook has its hands full when it comes to hot potato legal issues.

Is the budget for your intellectual property legal team too high? Are you overspending on legal while your competitors get by with leaner teams? Or is it too low, destining you to go over budget?

How can you tell, anyway? By looking to a few key performance indicators to see if your IP legal spending lines up with industry practice.