In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

February 2016 Archives

Apple's General Counsel Will Try to Convince Congress in Encryption Debate

Encryption-Opera continues as Apple's General Counsel announces plans to take the encryption debate to Capitol Hill by testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Apple's General Counsel, Bruce Sewell, plans to reiterate the arguments that Tim Cook has already made to the American public and its customers: We object.

We've taken a look at the text of the opening remarks that Sewell will delivery to the HJC tomorrow. It's mostly stuff that you've already seen. But the implications for this situation can't be overstated, not only for individuals' phones, but potentially for company networks, too.

In-House Lawyers Can't Represent Agents as Individuals, Court Rules

Years after the Penn State Sandusky scandal first came to light, further drama has gripped the attention of in-house lawyers across the nation. A Pennsylvania Superior Court has quashed various criminal charges against several Penn State employees because the school's lawyer had violated their individual confidences.

Although the case technically only binds Pennsylvania, in-house lawyers everywhere should appreciate the details of the case.

Perhaps you've been following #FreeKesha on Twitter, or seen her recent contract dispute pop up in the tabloids. Kesha, the pop star, recently lost a minor legal battle in her suit against Lukasz Sebastian, the record producer known as "Dr. Luke."

But don't write off the dispute as something just for the tabloids. There are important lessons for in-house counsel in there, too, we swear.

If your company's reputation is under assault, in court or in the media, is your law department prepared? If you said, "probably not," you're not alone. Most corporate legal departments don't have an up-to-date strategy for reacting to a crisis such as high-profile litigation.

Yet having a clear crisis communication plan can be essential to protecting your corporate reputation, in court and out. And they're not too difficult to get started. Here's a quick guide to creating your own legal department crisis communications plan.

Earlier this month, Thomson Reuters, the company behind Westlaw, Practical Law, and FindLaw, launched Practice Point, a new legal solution that satisfies the need for both expertise and efficiency by delivering relevant the content and tools you need for a particular task.

If that's good, this is even better: Practice Point was specifically designed to meet the needs of in-house attorneys. That's right, someone is finally taking the time to give in-house counsel the TLC they deserve. Let's take a look.

When it comes to high-profile litigation, the court of public opinion moves much faster than the courts of law. Managing your corporate reputation in such times is essential to mitigating potential damages to the company's brand. No one disagrees about that.

Yet, when it comes to protecting the corporate rep., many senior legal officers have outdated strategies or no strategies at all, according to the inaugural edition of Greentarget's Litigation Communication Survey.

A New York brokerage CEO was sentenced to six months in prison last Thursday, after admitting to falsifying invoices provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Charles Moore, CEO of the broker-dealer Crucible Capital Group, pleaded guilty last November to obstructing an SEC investigation into Crucible's filing inaccurate net capital figures with the Commission.

Moore, it seems, had instructed a young employee to create false invoices, obscuring Crucible's debts.

In-House Counsel May View 'Outside Counsel Only' Discovery

There are times when even best attempts to obtain a particular outcome fail, and the case of Sanofi-Aventis v. Breckenridge represents that fact in spades. Federal Magistrate Judge Lois Goodman ruled that in-house counsel may view "outside counsel only" documents because the lawyer in question was sufficiently walled-off from conflict.

Survey: Law Departments Are Warming up to the Cloud

Like it or not, the cloud is coming and it looks like its here to stay. According to a survey-slash-white-paper by AriKaplan Advisors, law firms and in-house legal departments are slowly but surely adopting more cloud based computing into their business models. Now at least 84 percent of respondents are open to the cloud.

This seems to be a significant jump from previous numbers that generally placed firm openness to the cloud at around 68 percent.

If you work in-house at a large company, you're probably familiar with secondments, the temporary placing of an outside attorney within the company. The term is military in origin, referring to sending off an officer to aid another organization but the idea is the same: Admiral IP Lawyer joins the team for a few months as the company revises its licensing agreements, for example.

Secondments are becoming increasingly common, but the deal is almost always the same: an outside firm lawyer joins a client company for a month or two or three. But now some in-house attorneys are wondering: isn't it time that we seconded too?

Tips for Drafting an International Arbitration Clause

International arbitration agreements (IAAs, or "arbs"): this is a term that you've probably come across if your firm has even mentioned going overseas to do business. This is the clause that binds parties to the decision of a neutral arbiter should a dispute arising out of a business contract. Think of them as the bigger version of the arbs you've already had to review for domestic disputes.

The bigger international versions are pretty much the same thing -- only more expensive and more involved. All the more reason that you should always strive diligently to craft an arb that fits your company's particular needs like a glove.

Staples, Office Depot Merger Approved by European Commission

Many years ago, before the turn of the millennium, Staples and Office Depot sought to merge forces to create what would be the Costco of office supplies. Their efforts were stymied by the Federal Trade Commission, which voiced anti-competition concerns.

Today, the two companies are still angling for US federal approval. But just recently the European Commission, the EU's cousin to the FTC, greenlit the companies' plans to merge. Is this the turnaround Staples and Office Depot have been waiting for?

USERRA: The Toothiest Fed Employment Law You Never Heard of

We recently wrote a short piece reminding in-house counselors of the general federal employment laws they should be familiar with. Now, some recent cases at the Federal District level has prompted us to add another to that list: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, aka USERRA.

Here are a few pointers concerning liability under USERRA.

Arbitration remains an essential litigation prevention tool, and one that's regularly been given favorable legal treatment by the Supreme Court and Congress.

But two recent opinions, one from the Supreme Court and one from the Fourth Circuit, serve as an important reminder of some of the limits to arbitration agreements, at least when it comes to choice of law provisions. Here's a quick review.

Life Will Get Tougher With E.U.'s New Patent Court

Most of the EU member state-countries have already signed on to ratify the Unified Patent Court agreement and only a few more states are left before this thing becomes reality. Rumor has it that Germany and the UK are already inking up and the UPC will be up and running by 2017.

Are You a Trademark Bully?

By now, we've all heard of patent trolls, but now is a good time for us to visit its lesser known cousin, the trademark bully. And yes, just like copyright bullies and the patent troll, they're not particularly loved. The reasons for their existence, unsurprisingly is related to the complexities of Intellectual Property practice.

Are you (or your company) a trademark bully? To find out, take a look at the list of symptoms below.

Are In-House Departments Facing an Exodus of Talent?

Everyone good in the corporate legal department wants out. Yeah, you read that right. According to legal recruitment director Doron Paluch, in-house lawyers are looking to move into private practice at a rate higher than ever before.

Could it be that private practice actually has a lot more to offer?

A former Yahoo manager is challenging the tech company's famous -- or infamous, depending on where you stand -- employee ranking system in federal court. Gregory Anderson, a former Yahoo editor, sued the company on Monday, alleging that the ranking system was used to violate both California and federal employment law.

A hallmark of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's reign at the company, the system requires supervisors to rank every employee on a scale of one to five, with those on the bottom often shown the door. But, Anderson's suit alleges, that merit-based ranking is often a smokescreen for getting around mass layoff laws.

You make sure contractors in your global supply chain keep private data secure. You take pains to ensure third party corruption compliance. You may even require suppliers to adopt social and environmental standards. But have you addressed slavery?

There are more slaves today than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade over 300 years ago and they could be working in your supply chain. Here's how you can root it out.

In-House Lawyers: Deduct Your Travel Expenses

Few people like to do their taxes, and as a consequence they'll try to blaze through the tax-paying process as fast as possible. But if you're an in-house lawyer, that's greenbacks left in the hands of the IRS. And as much as people hate doing their taxes, they should hate letting the government keep their dollars.

One of the most common deductions taken are travel related. Here are a few IRS tips that will help you reduce your company's tax liability this season.