In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Recently in Tales from the Legal Department Category

Improve Your Presentations With Storytelling Structures

Nobody tells a story like a good storyteller.

Kurt Vonnegut, the acclaimed American author, had a structure for crafting stories. He said one is the Cinderalla story, and another is the Man in a Hole.

"People love that story," he said. That about sums it up for corporate counsel, especially when they have to present company successes and failures.

Every year, without fail, there will always be scandals that result from in-house attorneys dropping the ball, or maybe just not doing their jobs well enough.

Maybe you can't always blame the attorneys for the mistakes of the top level brass; after all, most in-house attorneys are relegated to specific functions rather than top level decisions. Basically, if you've read between the lines, it's the general counsel that are to blame.

And since learning from our mistakes is the best way to avoid making them again, below you can find five of the top corporate legal scandals from 2017 that you can learn from.

Putting Together Top Legal Teams

"By their fruits ye shall know them," Jesus said almost one Christmas and 2,000 years ago.

He was talking about how to know the difference between true prophets and false ones. True ones produce good things; false ones, not so much.

Although Jesus wasn't a big fan of lawyers, his analogy could be a how-to on putting together a good legal department. Otherwise, as Forrest Gump said with a holiday box of chocolates, "you never know what you're gonna get."

Negotiation Tips From Harvard

Every lawyer is a negotiator, and most have a story to go with it.

Like Jackie, who was working for a financial instituion when she received a job offer from a bank to work in-house. It was for more than she expected, but she was still looking at a pay cut.

"She went in asking for 20K more; they countered at 18K more than the initial offer, and she accepted!" Forbes related, adding, "Simply asking works." It's one of many stories and tips on how to negotiate. Beyond that, Harvard offers a valuable checklist to consider:

In what certainly appears to be the best video ever released by a legal team, the brilliant minds over at Velcro are starting to go viral, at least in IP and trademark circles. Their song and music video, "Don't Say Velcro" is nothing short of epic, and soon to be the anthem of every in-house trademark attorney.

The brilliance of the song is that it accurately explains the dilemma that in-house lawyers at the most popular companies have to deal with: The never ending flow of cease and desist letters they have to send out due to trademark violations.

Beating Burn-Out and the In-House Blues

‘They call it stormy Monday, and Tuesday’s just as bad.’

‘Wednesday’s worse, and Thursday’s oh so sad.’ So sang bluesman Buddy Guy.

In another life, he could have been an attorney and still sung the same song. That’s because the blues can stretch out and even burn out corporate counsel, too.

So here’s a cue from the musicians and writers who help us when our hearts aren’t in our work anymore. Turn up the speakers and enjoy.

Startup Counsel Salaries Going Up in Silicon Valley

Until a startup is required to disclose compensation details, it's hard to know how much general counsel make there.

But according to reports, in-house counsel salaries are going up in 2017. And in Silicon Valley, the startups are putting it out there.

Julie Brush, writing for the Recorder, says the market has picked up for general counsel in the San Francisco Bay Area. She says the base salary is $250,000 to $300,000.

"Of all the compensation knobs, this one has turned the most in a forward direction for candidates," she wrote. "Rarely will the number exceed $300K or fall below $250K at the offer stage."

In-house attorneys shouldn't keep the rest of the company at arm's length. That's the message from PayPal's Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer, Louis Pentland. "As an in-house lawyer," Pentland explains, "the best you can get is when you're integrated with the business team."

That means forgoing the more traditional role of simply identifying and advising the company on risks, while allowing others to make the final decision.

Wells Fargo's board of directors released its report into the bank's fraudulent account scandal yesterday, a scandal that saw millions of fake accounts opened customers' names, as employees bent rules to meet demanding sales goals. The report, which marks the near culmination of the bank's internal investigations, laid blame primarily on two executives: ex-CEO John G. Stumpf and former head of community banking Carrie L. Tolstedt.

But the report also gives some insight into how the problem got so bad, and how the bank's internal legal department failed to prevent the scandal, even when they'd warned of risks years before.

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?