In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

November 2015 Archives

You want to work in-house. You've always wanted to work in-house. But how much experience do you need before moving in to the general counsel's office?

While the traditional path is still common -- spend a few years at a firm, then transition -- many companies are starting to open their law departments to attorneys with a wider range of experience, including attorneys straight out of law school.

In-House, Don't Over-Lawyer Everything and Listen

Seasoned fashion general counsel Donna Edbril says that "[a] lot of people come with different preconceived notions about lawyers -- and many of those notions aren't positive."

ForeFront magazine got a hold of Edbril and asked her to share her thoughts on what tips would be useful for lawyers thinking of changing over to in-house legal work. She is keenly aware of many of the negative and unflattering stereotypes that lawyers enjoy, and says that in order to be an effective in-houser, a lawyer should dispel all of those preconceptions.

AstraZeneca Sues Generic Indian Pharm for Its Purple Pills

AstraZenaca, the makers of the acid reflux pill Nexium, successfully secured an injunction against the generic pharm company Dr. Reddy's Laboratories for the latter's use of the color purple in packing its pills, according to the New Jersey Law Journal. The two companies have been duking it out in New Jersey and Delaware federal courts over the last few weeks.

Reddy countered on November 18th, claiming the AstraZeneca knew that Reddy intended to package its generic version of the drug in a purple capsule -- or at least purple and lavender.

Putting together an effective resume is an art. And if you're looking for a position in-house, you already know that your resume must be specially tailored for an inside counsel position.

But accidentally including warning signs -- mistakes that make a hiring manager question your resume -- can undo all your hard resume-building work. Even the most skilled candidates can be relegated to the bottom of the pile if they make these errors.

Survey: In-House Can't Handle a Social Media Crisis

Some sobering yet expected data came out of global communications research and consulting firm Weber Shandwick. According to the data, lawyers in both the U.K. and the U.S. agreed that firm reputation was a company's most valuable asset with a 91 percent agreement; and that social media greatly increased the chances of an all out-crisis (85 percent increase).

And yet, for some reason, the very same pool of lawyers seem to think that the purported social media crises they all seem to agree is a problem is not their problem, but someone else's. This illusory superiority example goes to show that even lawyers aren't immune to self-delusion.

Ireland Closes One Loophole for U.S. Companies, Opens Another

It looks like Ireland's recent closing of a popular tax-loophole that drew mega-corporations to Irish shores like flies to a honey-pot isn't entirely what it first seemed.

Chris O'Leary, lord mayor of the quiet town of Cork, isn't keen on seeing American companies leave in the wake of the closing of Irish tax-loopholes, but he maintains confident that "companies aren't just coming for the corporate tax rate." But a recent push to sweeten the deal for patent-heavy industries is nice to have as insurance.

If you don't already work for a corporate Goliath, you may soon. From health care to tech to hospitality, corporate mergers and acquisitions are skyrocketing. They'll soon outpace the $4.6 trillion record set in 2007, the Los Angeles Times reports.

But when two companies merge, what happens to their in-house attorneys?

Law Partners Are Aging Faster Than CEOs of Companies They Serve

We previously wrote about how the painfully low percentage of Generation Xers making BigLaw partner in this country. Now, the researchers whose data led to that odious conclusion have also provided data to show that law firm partners are significantly older than the CEOs of the clients they serve.

Is the BigLaw model of law firms growing continuously gray at the temples?

OSHA Updates Whistleblower Protection Guidelines, Invites Comment

OSHA recently released a set of draft guidelines to help organizations currently setting up compliance regimes. The guidelines concurrently protect whistleblowers' rights. By implementing some of the key suggestions in the guidelines, employees should be compelled to discuss issues with employers before anything blows up into a full blown lawsuit.

Employers who have anything to say about the guidelines should consider submitting comments, which will be made public.

Starting January 1st, the strongest equal pay law in the country goes into effect in California. The state's Fair Pay Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October, is designed to strengthen existing equal pay laws and provide robust new protections for workers. Among the law's mandates are a requirement for equal pay for "substantially similar" work, a whole lot of protections for discussing wages, and stronger legal recourse for employees denied equal pay.

If you do business in California, it's time to prepare. Here's what you need to know.

Marriot to Buy Starwood, Creating World's Biggest Hotel Company

Marriott International has just agreed to purchase Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide for $12.2 billion in cash and stock, a move that will create the largest hotel company on the planet.

The merger is likely to come as great relief to Starwood, whose stock has suffered over the last few years due to the changing of CEOs and talk of sale.

Working in-house might save you from many of the hassles of traditional lawyering, but it doesn't insulate you from the same ethical rules and requirements that apply to the rest of the bar. You are still expected to abide by the same mandates, even if the nature of your work is very different.

Since those rules were crafted without you in mind, compliance can be tricky -- and it's sometimes simply overlooked. But thankfully, as an in-house attorney, compliance is your specialty, so keep your eyes peeled for these common ethical pitfalls facing in-house lawyers.

One of the benefits of working as in-house counsel is that you don't have to worry about pesky (and somewhat costly) things like malpractice insurance, right? If something goes wrong, no one will blame the company lawyer. Except, of course, when they do.

Civil lawsuits and even criminal indictments targeting in-house attorneys aren't the norm, but they are becoming increasingly common, leading more and more in-house lawyers to look into malpractice insurance.

As any in-house attorney knows, a company's employee handbook is much more than a collection of corporate rules, platitudes, and H.R. procedures. Often, courts will treat detailed employee handbooks as establishing binding terms and conditions of employment.

When it comes to disputes with workers, the employee handbook can be one of your most important documents -- or your Achilles' heel. Here are seven mistakes employers often make when putting together an employee handbook and how you can avoid them in yours.

SEC Announces $325,000 Whistleblowing Award

The SEC just announced a $325,000 award given to a former investment firm employee who blew the whistle to the SEC with specific information that allowed the federal agency to begin an investigation that later uncovered extensive fraudulent activity at the tipster's ex-employer.

5 Questions to Ask Before Going In House

As with any job, there are pros and cons to going in house. While making the transition, it's important to ask the right questions so that you are faced with any big surprises on day one at your new corporate gig.

Stephen E. Seckler at BCG Attorney Search put together a valuable list of top FAQs. Here, we've taken some of those FAQs and added our own twist.

Intellectual Property Highlights From the TPP Text

The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement was released November 5, 2015. It was many years in the running -- seven years, basically -- but the masterpiece is finally available for public scrutiny. The Agreement extends its tentacles into approximately 40 percent of the world's annual GDP and almost 1 billion people's lives. Obviously, businesses are some of its greatest proponents.

Evaluating the performance of an in-house legal department can be difficult. There's no billable hour game to be won. Showing how much litigation exposure has been reduced is a difficult art. Hence, many companies adopt sometimes frustrating performance metrics that look at legal department spending, staff workload, and cycle time to evaluate in-house lawyers.

But one insightful metric that is often overlooked is outside counsel. Evaluating outside counsel not only helps you justify performance and cost, but can identify the most valuable outside counsel to work with in the future.

BofA Is Changing General Counsel ... Again

After recently announcing his planned retirement from Ford Motor Company, David Leitch looks poised to fill Bank of America's soon to be vacated general counsel seat, according to the Wall Street Journal

We're guessing that retirement doesn't look quite as alluring as a freshly printed offer with just the right number of perks to go along with it. Our guess is that it's a good deal. If the past is any indicator, Leitch won't have to be BofA's GC for very long.

Your company is growing and the legal department needs to expand to keep pace. Or perhaps you’re one of the 20 percent of in-house lawyers who work solo and it’s time you got some company. Whatever the case, you’re looking to hire.

But finding the right candidate takes more than just posting a listing on a recruiting website. Here are some tips to help guide you through the process.

Basic cybersecurity skills aren't that complicated. A vigilant eye -- and good filtering software -- can protect you from many malicious online tricks, like phishing. Phishing, if you're not familiar, is a form of email fraud where messages appear to be legitimate in order to steal sensitive information. An email purporting to be from your HR department, for example, could ask for your company password and poof: Russian spies are all over your email system.

Phishing attacks can result in millions of dollars of damage and corporate legal departments are some of the most gullible targets. Thankfully, testing your team is pretty easy and a great way to identify weaknesses before hackers exploit them.

CFTC: Adopt New Security Measures, Or Else?

Congress created the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1974 to, alongside the National Futures Association, oversee commodities trading in this country. Since then, the CFTC's regulatory power has expanded further and further.

Last month, the CFTC greenlit the latest strap-tightening policy suggestions by the NFA: members of the NFA "should" implement stronger cybersecurity policies. f you're in the commodities or derivatives industry, get ready to make some changes.

How to Avoid Bias in the Hiring Process

Despite employment laws designed to protect against discrimination, employers are still influenced by their biases. Apparently, even well-intentioned employers are biased against disabled persons.

According to a study by Rutgers and Syracuse Universities, disabled persons who reveal their disability in their letters and cover letters were about a quarter less likely to garner employee interest than those who did not.

In-House Attorneys Panic Over Cyberattacks and Damage Control

The Association of Corporate Counsel recently met to discuss pressing in-house counsel concerns and issues. What took center stage? Cybersecurity and damage control.

Threats from cyberhackers has increasingly been the headache of general counsel from companies large and small. And if you think that this party was American invitees only -- think again.

The annual meeting of the Association revealed that companies are biting their nails over cyberattacks how to handle a crisis at their firms. The North Korean attack of Sony was cited as an example of "learn from other's mistakes" and cautioned in-house attorneys to be ready for other similar attacks on law firms. Overall the meeting was a chance for IH across the planet to learn the latest in defense techniques.