In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

August 2015 Archives

If you work in an IP-heavy industry, you know just how important a role litigation can play in protecting (or abusing) intellectual property rights. Now, Lex Machina, the IP litigation research company, has conducted one of the first, wide-ranging overviews of copyright litigation trends over the past years.

Lex Machina put its big-data-crunching skills to work for its first ever Copyright Litigation Report. The report surveyed almost 15,000 copyright cases from 2009 through mid 2015 to find IP litigation patterns, trends, and insights. Here are some of the highlights.

A mix between outside counsel and in-house attorney, compliance attorneys are the Liger of the legal industry. They've managed to straddle both the corporate and private practice worlds and they've been getting a lot of press as the solution to legal unemployment and corporate regulation.

Why all the hype? The work of a compliance attorney will be familiar to most in-house lawyers, though the compliance attorney generally makes only a fraction of an in-house lawyer's salary.

Long hours are coming under fire. First, there's the Department of Labor's plan to expand overtime pay to millions of white-collar workers. Then there's that New York Times Amazon piece. You know the one -- the one that emphasizes the online retailer's grueling hours and demanding culture. The one that makes Amazon look like a corporate Guantanamo, but with less downtime.

Excessive work demands took an extra blow the other day when a Pennsylvania court ruled that the widow of a worker who died during a 14 hour shift was entitled to death benefits. The employer was liable for working the man to death, the court ruled.

In-house counsel are playing an ever greater role in the C-suite. Some are even joining it, not just as CLOs but as CEO. Despite the stereotype of the lawyer as roadblock -- attorneys are derided as the "vice-presidents of No" by plenty of business people -- many companies are realizing that their in-house attorneys have what it takes to succeed not only in the legal department, but at the helm of the company.

That lawyers make good CEOs might seem counter intuitive. Most lawyers don't have much of an entrepreneurial bent. Plenty of lawyers can't do basic accounting. They're not known for embracing risk. But, despite the stereotype, we think in-house lawyers can make great business leaders. Here's why:

When corporate execs dream of the perfect in-house counsel, what comes to mind? What particular skills and expertise do potential legal department lawyers need to make them the ideal in-house lawyer?

Unsurprisingly, the characteristics of a successful BigLaw attorney aren't the same as a great in-house lawyer or general counsel. In-house attorneys require a specific set of practice skills that will allow them to meet the broad needs of the business, as well as the interpersonal abilities to allow them to work alongside non-lawyers.

Remember 1L year, when you told everyone you were seriously considering a public interest career? Or when you started at your firm, thinking you would take on plenty of pro bono on the side? Well, you don't have to give up the "good" part of practicing when you go in-house.

Plenty of corporate legal departments have longstanding pro bono programs. If yours doesn't, you can make it yourself, even if your department is small and under resourced. Here's how:

Get ready to do some math, in-house counsel, or at least to call up the accounting department. The Securities and Exchange Commission has finally adopted a CEO pay ratio disclosure rule, five years after Dodd-Frank imposed the disclosure mandate.

The new executive pay ratio rule is complicated and, for some companies, sure to be embarrassing. But, the SEC promises, it will help shareholders have a "say on pay" and might delay -- or ignite -- the coming income inequality-inspired revolution everyone from Thomas Piketty to billionaire hedge fund managers are warning about. Here's what in-house counsel need to know.

Forget Alphabet or Moore's Law or artificial intelligence: when it comes to big news in tech, families are taking center stage. Less than a week ago, Netflix announced a new, generous parental leave policy, giving new parents as much paid time off as they need. Then Microsoft followed suit, announcing that employees could take five months of leave. Yesterday, Adobe caught up, offering over six months of paid leave.

Apparently, parental leave has become the new hot commodity when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent and proving one's commitment to employees and family. Should your company follow suit?

Companies are much more willing to part with millions of dollars than to admit that they have done wrong and violated the law. Settlements with enforcement agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission chief among them, almost never require companies to admit wrongdoing -- almost.

For the past two years, the SEC has been pursuing such admissions more fervently. Under a new-ish policy, the Commission requires admissions of wrongdoing in "egregious" cases.

If you ask typical young lawyers how they envision their career path, you'll likely hear a pretty uniform response. Join a big firm, perhaps after clerking. After a few years as an associate, become a junior partner. Divorce. Work your way to senior partner and wonder where your life went. Of course, plenty of lawyers will change course half way, leaving to hang their own shingle, work for a nonprofit, or take up a new career -- but the usual path is clear.

For in-house counsel? Not so much. Career paths and career advancement for corporate counsel can vary greatly between industries, companies, and individuals. However, some general patterns remain common across in-house careers.