In House: Tales from the Legal Department Archives
In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Recently in Tales from the Legal Department Category

Amazon is known for its discounts, but this discount is steep indeed. The online retailer won a tax dispute with the IRS last Thursday, evading a federal tax bill of $1.5 billion plus interest.

The dispute began when the IRS accused Amazon of inappropriately lowering its domestic tax bill by transferring assets to a subsidiary in Luxembourg. But the U.S. Tax Court disagreed, calling the IRS's evaluation "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."

Does your legal department have an operations professional? If not, it could soon. The legal department operations professional, or LDO, is becoming a key role in many legal departments, according to the 2016 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-Sourcing and Efficiency Report.

Twenty-one percent of departments have an LDO, according to the report, and that number appears to be growing. As corporate legal departments handle more work in house, with little commensurate growth in resources, an LDO can free up attorneys to focus on legal, rather than operational, tasks.

After more than two decades as general counsel at Bio-Rad Laboratories, Sanford Wadler was fired from the company after he attempted to report corrupt practices to the company's board, Wadler says. So he sued.

Last week, Wadler won his lawsuit -- and nearly $11 million. A federal jury awarded Wadler $2.9 million in back pay and stock options and $5 million in punitive damages. That award will increase another $3 million under the Dodd-Frank Act, which allows double back pay for damages in whistleblower retaliation cases.

The days of outside counsel handling an entire case may be coming to their end. Instead, clients are increasingly unbundling legal services, assigning tasks piecemeal across multiple firms and lawyers, in order to find the most cost efficient legal services, according to a forthcoming paper in the Fordham Law Review.

These changes, according to the paper, mark a shift in who controls litigation costs and tasks, moving from the lawyer to the client, and parallel similar developments in the rules of civil procedure.

What lawyer brought a razor-sharp wit to, well, a razor fight? Jack Sarno, general counsel of the razor-blades-by-mail startup Harry's.

After Gillette launched a campaign to "welcome back" former Harry's users, Sarno sent off a demand letter to Gillette, part of Procter & Gamble -- a demand letter with plenty of, ahem, edge.

Salary negotiations can be a bit more difficult for in-house attorneys than for other lawyers. Whereas BigLaw firms tend to follow strict compensation plans, pay for in-house lawyers can vary significantly across companies, industries, and experience levels.

That means you'll need to put in extra work to understand what salary is possible for you and negotiate a decent compensation plan. Here are some tips.

Volkswagen Exec Arrested in Diesel Scandal

When Volkswagen first got caught cheating emissions tests in 2014, Oliver Schmidt was right to think his company might have a problem.

"It should first be decided whether we are honest," he said in an email to a Volkswagen colleague in April 2014. Schmidt was working as an executive over emissions testing in the United States at the time, but was transferred to Germany after the revelations led to a fiasco that has cost the company so far about $20 billion to pay for recalls, settlements, and criminal defense.

Arrested this week in Miami, Schmidt may now be thinking whether he should have returned to the United States. He has been charged with defrauding the government and conspiracy in the biggest cover-up of Clean Air Act violations in history.

Millennials are taking over. With more than 75 million 20- to 30-somethings in their ranks, Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers as America's largest generation. They recently became the largest part of the workforce, as well, and by 2025 they'll make up 75 percent of all workers.

But what do in-house counsel think of this new generation? According to a recent survey by Thomson Reuters, many in-house attorneys think Millennials will bring much-needed changes to the profession, while some of the old guard still have concerns about these upstarts.

Last year was a busy one for corporate insiders exposing wrongdoing. Spurred by large SEC whistleblower awards and stronger interpretations of federal laws protecting whistleblowers, 2016 saw major developments when it came to calling out corporate rule breaking. That even includes one in-house attorney turned whistleblower.

So, here are our top six whistleblower stories of the year, taken from the (recent) FindLaw archives.

As 2016 comes to a close, what does the new year hold for in-house counsel?

Our crystal ball is on the fritz, but we have a few solid predictions nonetheless. Attorneys in corporate legal departments can expect some current in-house trends to continue strong in to 2017, as companies, for example, continue to place more responsibility on in-house counsel. But big changes could be ahead, too, largely due to the incoming presidential administration which has promised to turn long-standing regulations (and practices) on their head.