In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

June 2012 Archives

In the age of viral videos and social media, what happens in-house doesn't always stay in-house. That's especially true when it comes to telling bad or offensive jokes, which have recently gotten some notable corporate counsel in trouble.

This spring, a former in-house counsel sued his ex-boss at insurance giant AIG over allegedly racist jokes that compared him to the cartoon character Fat Albert. Weeks later, Safeway's general counsel made an allegedly offensive joke during a shareholder's meeting that soon went viral and cast a negative light on his company, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

So what makes in-house counsel especially vulnerable to the risks of telling bad jokes, and what should GCs do about it?

Apple Convinces Judge to Stop Samsung Galaxy Tab Sales

Some say imitation is the best form of flattery.

But that's not always the case, especially in the highly competitive tech industry where everyone chases the industry leader.

Apple is the unofficial king of tech gadgets. Everyone wants what Apple has to sell. And Apple protects its territory viciously. In a recent court win over rival Samsung, Apple was able to temporarily enjoin the Korean company from selling its Samsung Galaxy tab in the U.S. due to alleged patent infringements.

How to Fix 5 Difficult Employee Archetypes

Corporate counsels know how challenging managing people can be. Humans all have their own quirks. Some are good, and some can bring your production to a standstill. So figuring out how to fix difficult employees is often the key to keeping your office running smooth.

But where do you begin? Should you refer them to HR or just can them altogether? As tempting and easy as those options are, learning to handle tough staffers is a skill that every manager needs.

Here are some ways to motivate five notoriously difficult types of employees.

Be Wary of e-Discovery Costs, Not All are Recoverable in Litigation

Be careful when evaluating e-Discovery service providers. Every penny matters, especially when heading towards litigation.

Many companies use e-Discovery services when litigation arises. Some statutes provide recovery of fees and costs to the prevailing party in litigation.

But not all costs are recoverable.

The in-house corporate legal position is the Holy Grail for many lawyers.

Many young grads and practicing attorneys fantasize about a non-billing, yet high-paying and prestigious position at one of the large corporations.

But because these positions are so highly coveted, it can be extremely difficult to get a corporate legal position. That's where David J. Parnell and his new book In-House: A Lawyer's Guide to Getting a Corporate Legal Position may help you.

Drug Representatives Exempt from Overtime, Considered Salespeople

Drug representatives are not entitled to overtime pay ruled the Supreme Court in Monday's decision.

The ruling came from a suit between GlaxoSmithKline PLC and two of its former drug representatives. The representatives claimed they had worked significant time outside of normal work hours and were entitled to overtime compensation.

The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling 5-4 that drug representatives are outside salespeople under the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the Act, outside salespeople are not entitled to overtime pay.

The Court's decision contained some new factors in determining if an employee is a salesperson that don't necessarily rely on making a physical sale.

Adidas Sued Over 'Barefoot' Running Shoe Claims

Be careful what you claim about your products.

If it's exaggerated, inaccurate, or just not true, you could get sued.

Adidas AG is learning this the hard way as they are being sued by a New York man who claims he was duped by Adidas' claims over the health benefits of its "barefoot" running shoe.

You won't find Maio & Cardenas in any law firm directory, because it doesn't exist. Yet the fake law firm, and others like it, collected more than $8 million in legal fees in a fraud linked to a former in-house counsel named Anthony Chiofalo, a lawsuit asserts.

Chiofalo was the in-house legal chief at Tadano America Corp., a hydraulic crane manufacturer based in Houston. Tadano's lawsuit accuses Chiofalo of billing the company for legal services that were never provided, the ABA Journal reports. The payments allegedly went to the fake law firms under Chiofalo's control.

Tadano is now seeking more than $8 million in reimbursement from Chiofalo. If only the company could find him.

An App for Corporate Counsel: Introducing GC Advisor

Staying on top of continuing legal education classes is a problem no corporate counsel wants to deal with. Well good news, GC Advisor for your iPad can take the hassle out of this chore.

The new free app from Thomson Reuters was designed exclusively for in house counsels. It gives users direct access to CLE-accredited webcasts from West LegalEdcenter via RSS feed. Over 25,000 lawyers used LegalEdcenter every year to stay on top of their requirements.

But GC Advisor can do way more than just let you catch up on your CLE. It can also make you a better in house.

Corn Refiners are Stuck with High Fructose Corn Syrup, FDA Rules

Does corn sugar sound more appealing than High Fructose Corn Syrup to you? The Corn Refiners Association certainly thought so.

Unfortunately, the FDA isn't on aboard with the branding switch. The FDA denied the lobbying group's attempt to rebrand High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) to the more neutral corn sugar. 

Concerns about adverse health effects caused the popularity of HFCS to plummet over the past several years and consumers are still wary of products that use the much-maligned sweetener.

But the real issue for national corporations is whether the FDA's decision is intended as a slap on the wrist in response to public outcry.

General Counsels Anticipate More Class Actions, Less Spending

Citing a rise in anti-business sentiment, a group of over 300 general counsel have predicted that, in 2012, we will see an uptick in the number of class action lawsuits. However, these same attorneys also plan to spend 17% less defending these suits in the coming year.

You read that right. A recent survey by Carlton Fields suggests that corporate counsel expects, on average 5.4 suits per company in 2012. Compare this to only 4.4 suits in 2011. Nonetheless, these attorneys have made plans to cut their class action budgets. The majority will do so by more closely monitoring outside counsel billing.

NYC Sugary Drink Ban May Be on Solid Legal Ground

The NYC sugary drink ban put in place by Mayor Michael Bloomberg is facing opposition.

With a measure that could affect how many New York businesses sell sugary drinks, counsel for restaurants and industry groups are starting to put their heads together to determine whether they plan to sue.

But they may have a difficult road ahead of them.

Trademark Screening Made Simple and Cheaper with SAEGIS

While rolling out a new product is fun for companies, it can be the bane of a corporate counsel's existence. There are lots of legal hoops to leap through. Chief among them is trademark screening. Simple and cheap aren't two words many in houses associate with the practice, but with SAEGIS on SERION they can be.

Thomson CompuMark, the company that manages SAEGIS, has just announced plans to launch 136 new databases to it popular trademark screening search service. The addition will make SAEGIS the world's largest provider of trademark screening data.

The new content will bring up SAEGIS's total coverage to 186 countries and registers. But what does this mean for corporate counsels the world over?

How Sweet It Is: Nutella Settlement Spreads Cash to Plaintiffs' Lawyers

The Nutella settlement isn't providing much for the consumers who purchased Nutella.

The $2.5 million settlement against the U.S. branch of the Italian Ferrero Group is giving consumers a maximum of $20 each-- that's $4 for every jar of Nutella purchased up to a maximum of 5 jars.

But as for the class action lawyers behind the lawsuit, they are getting the sweet end of the deal.

Policy Changes to Make Before Laying Off Employees

Though there are signs of an improving economy, layoffs continue to persist at an alarming rate. The pharmaceutical industry saw thousands of layoffs in 2011, and a number of companies have kept up the layoff trend in 2012.

If your company hasn't instituted layoffs, it might be time to prepare. With the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cracking down and employee lawsuits on the rise, it's important that you review and make any of the following policy changes before laying off employees.

3 Reasons Not To Become an In House Counsel

Firm life can be draining. Whether it's in BigLaw or a mom and pop, the practice of law can leave you questioning your career path sometimes. So when you get a call from a headhunter offering a chance to become an in house counsel, your natural inclination is to jump.

It seems like a wise choice and it definitely can be. But the pitfalls involved in taking such a leap can sometimes be more than you expect.

Internal counsel wear a lot of different hats for a corporation, and FindLaw gets that. Our website features a wealth of free resources that in-house lawyers can use to make your day-to-day practice easier, without spending a dime.

To get you started, here's a quick look at our Top 7 free resources for corporate counsel:

1. Legal Professional Blogs

FindLaw's legal blog network includes In House, a blog specifically written for corporate counsel. With stories on how well suited women are as GCs or the Rush Limbaugh controversy, we have a slew of relevant, up-to-date content on General Counsel. We serve up the helpful, insightful news that matters to the in-house lawyer, including: