In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

July 2013 Archives

Your Social Media Policy Can't Be Too Restrictive, Says NLRB

When it comes to your social media policy, the NLRB wants you to remember to respect concerted activity -- even in the digital world. A recent NLRB memo reminds companies that enforcing highly restrictive social media rules in the workplace may be a violation of federal labor laws.

The memo came about after a lawsuit involving supermarket chain Giant, in which the company implemented a policy against employees making posts on social media that included the store's logo or any information about the workplace, reports Fox Business. Essentially, it was a blanket ban.

5 Steps to Take Before Asking for a Raise

Now that the market is starting to pick up, you may feel tempted to muster up the courage to ask for a raise. But before you stick your palm out with a “Yes, please” and “Thank you,” remember you need to lay some groundwork before you do the big (t)ask.

Here are five steps you should take before asking for a raise:

Recently, AlixPartners published the findings of their Litigation and Corporate Compliance Survey, conducted in December 2012. Relying on the responses of GCs from U.S.-based companies, with annual revenues of $250 million or more, the survey indicates that the risk, and cost, of litigation are on the rise.

Everyone knows litigation is expensive and ends up costing you time, attention and money. The best way to save money is to avoid litigation entirely. Last week, we shared three tips for reducing the risk of litigation. Now, we share three tips for reducing the cost of litigation.

The higher you get on the corporate ladder, the more of your time is spent in a conference room. Some days, you'll look at your calendar and see nothing but back-to-back meetings. Where are you going to find the time to get anything done?

The first place to find the time is by making sure that the meetings you are in are efficient and productive. Want the key to running a good meeting? Ask yourself these 5 questions.

Halliburton Pleads Guilty to Destroying Evidence; Stock Rises

The chickens ain't coming home to roost any time soon.

Halliburton just admitted to committing a crime. Specifically, they ran simulations that attempted to pinpoint the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, and when those simulations failed to back their hypothesis that BP was to blame for diverting from Halliburton's design specs, they destroyed all traces of the simulations, reports USA Today.

The company pled guilty earlier to the charges last week, and their "punishment" will be to pay a fine of $200,000 and will be put on probation for three years. They'll also make a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

This Week in FDA Regulation: Plan B Pills, Menthols, and E-Cigs

Regulation. The word itself sends chills down the spines of many. Fortunately, this past week’s Food and Drug Administration news isn’t exclusively restrictive. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry just got a jolt of good news with loosening of retractions on morning-after pills, though the new rules are indescribably complicated.

Meanwhile, five years after the FDA was granted the authority to regulate cigarettes, and four years after flavored cigarettes were banned, menthol may be the FDA’s next target. After that, it’s looking like the next target will be the exponentially-growing e-cigarette industry, which is currently virtually unregulated.

As in-house counsel it's up to you to make sure everyone in the company stays in line -- even the board of directors. Allegations of board member misconduct can not only hurt the company's reputation and value, but can cause strife among employee ranks.

Nobody likes internal investigations, but as part of the legal department, the responsibility in this area falls on you. A comprehensive ACC Docket article talked about ways to handle an investigation of board member misconduct. We're doing you the favor of giving you the consolidated play-by-play so you can get back to work quickly.

There are four main things to keep in mind with regard to investigating misconduct by board members...

If you work in-house, then you already know the drill. At one point or another, you're going to have to give a presentation. Whether it's a few slides to the legal department, or a major show at the annual international sales meeting, you need to know how to give a great presentation.

If you are in the midst of a presentation and can hear the hum of the air conditioning, you've lost your audience. You want people engaged and asking questions. Here are 5 quick tips on giving a great presentation ... and here's a hint, it's more than just having a great PowerPoint deck.

Consulting firm AlixParnters conducted their Litigation and Corporate Compliance Survey last December, fielding questions to general counsel at U.S. companies pulling in over $250 million in annual revenue. Just over half of the survey respondents said that litigation -- and its associated costs -- is on the rise.

The news of increased litigation is troubling because it is a massive drain on resources. Not only is litigation costly, but it also distracts managers and employees. Distractions can be time-consuming, but also drain employees emotionally and get in the way of existing assignments.

Let's face it, with an estimated 97% of civil cases settling, there really are no winners, that is, except for outside counsel. So, the question is, how can you avoid litigation and reduce the costs of litigation? Here are a few tips.

If you're a transactional attorney, then you know the drill. Every three months your life is turned upside down as your clients bombard you with endless transactions that just have to be closed before quarter end.

You've got to meet revenue expectations, and you want to keep you clients happy, so here are some tips for surviving quarter end.

Privilege Covers Law Firms' Communications with In-House Counsel

Attorney-client privilege covers the confidential communications between a law firm’s lawyers and their in-house counsel, even when the law firm faces a possible malpractice claim by a current client, two courts have recently ruled.

If you’re an attorney in Massachusetts or Georgia, listen up.

Executive research firm and events organizer Consero, together with Applied Discovery, Inc., released a report last week of their findings from 52 GCs from Fortune 1000 companies, who gathered to share best practices and learn from one another. The research conducted covered areas ranging from cyber security, social media and succession planning. But, the big take away had to do with outside counsel.

No big surprise, right? But BigLaw costs big bucks. Here are three things that the leading GCs are doing to keep their legal expenses in check.

Apple's E-Book Antitrust Defeat Helped by Emails, eDiscovery

You may have heard about the Apple e-books price-fixing scandal by now. If not, here is the short version: on the verge of releasing the iPad, Apple allegedly went to all of the major publishers, negotiated common contracts with all of them, all with the understanding (and Most Favored Nations clauses) that Apple would get equal or better treatment than other online e-book retailers, such as Google and Amazon. 

The arrangements also ensured that the publishers would set universal pricing and commission models that would fix prices, decrease competition, and gouge customers.

All of those nasty anti-competitive allegations were found valid by a judge earlier this week. A second trial, to determine damages, is set to follow.

The in-house counsel position is one of mystery. To the unknowing outsider, it looks like the perfect legal job. But, to those who have been there, done that, the outlook is a little different, if not bleaker. We decided to crack the code of silence of in-house attorneys and find out the real deal on what they wish they knew before they went in-house.

On Monday, we shared points 1 to 5 - here now, are 6 to 10 ...

How In-House Counsel Can Get Along With the Human Resources Dept.

A company's in-house counsel and human resources department are sometimes at odds with one another. Often tasked with legally guiding the HR department, the legal department is endlessly updating company policy to reflect rapidly evolving law that requires quick turnaround.

The HR department, on the other hand, can be more bureaucratic, clinging to a "comfort zone" of standard forms, and sometimes too closely aligned with the interests of management. Because the two groups often possess obnoxious similar qualities, in-house counsel and HR departments may butt heads rather than commiserate work together. Here are a few ways to change the relationship:

Fret not, irascible in-house counsel, there are solutions.

Here are a few tips on how to get along with your HR department:

Indemnification Agreement: Should Your In-House Counsel Have One?

When it comes to indemnification agreements for in-house lawyers, there are a number of considerations to take into account. There’s plenty of liability and litigation to keep in-house counsel relevant. But what are in-house attorneys to do when the tables turn on them?

Should you enter into an indemnification agreement with your employer?

With a hat tip to Justin Comeaux’s piece for McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Inc., here are a few things to consider:

You've been billing eighty hours a week for eight years and partnership is still eluding you. You're constantly gearing up for trial -- only to have all your cases settle. You haven't had a weekend off with the family in 3 years.

The fix to these problems for many is to get an in-house job -- that elusive chalice that holds the magical balance of work and life. You seem to hear only wonderful things about the in-house holy grail, but we decided to dig a little deeper and find out what in-house lawyers really think. Based on our unscientific sampling, here are the top ten things lawyers wish they knew before they went in-house, starting with numbers 1 to 5.

And let's just say it's not all rainbows and unicorns ...

Ex-Tiffany VP Accused of Jewelry Theft: Shiny Lessons for Lawyers

A former executive of Tiffany & Co. was arrested for allegedly stealing $1.3 million worth of Tiffany's jewelry from the company.

The former vice president of Tiffany, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, is accused of stealing 165 pieces of jewelry over the course of two years, including diamond bracelets, earrings, and pendants.

Lederhaas-Okun was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property; if convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, reports CNN.

Employers Look at Wrong Things in Facebook Screening, Study Finds

It's pretty standard for employers to use Facebook for screening job applicants and cutting candidates they think have unsavory traits. But a new study from North Carolina State University shows that those companies may be missing the mark entirely and eliminating excellent job candidates.

The core of the problem, the study suggests, is a fundamental misunderstanding of online behavior.

Google and Microsoft File FISA Info Motions

Google and Microsoft have filed motions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, seeking permission to reveal information about how many secret FISA requests they have received under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“To promote additional transparency concerning the Government’s lawful access to Microsoft’s customer data, Microsoft seeks to report aggregate information about FISA orders and FAA directives separately from all other local, state, and federal law enforcement demands,” states the company’s filing.

The move shows just how crucial a role in-house counsel can play in combating negative media reports.