In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

June 2016 Archives

Maybe you're ready to make the switch from firm practice to in-house work. Or perhaps you're already an in-house attorney, looking to transition to a new position elsewhere. Either way, you're on the hunt for a new job.

While an in-house job search isn't entirely different from finding other jobs, it does require a specific set of skills and a unique approach to the job search. To help you out, here are our top in-house attorney job search tips, from the FindLaw archives.

Before Britain can begin its withdrawal from the European Union, it will have to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which allows EU members to begin their divorce from the Union.

But if you've entered into agreements and contracts that have been frustrated by the Brexit, you too might be able to invoke some clauses of your own. Corporate lawyers may be able to rely on so-called "Brexit clauses" in contract boilerplate to get out of deals that have been soured by Britain's refusal to remain in the Union -- and pretty much every contract has them.

Hacked? Make Sure to Notify Your Customers!

Your company will be hacked. It's as certain as death and taxes. In light of this, what the diligent in-house attorney can do is make sure all of the company's affairs and records are in order. If a government investigation takes place, you should be ready.

Below we cover data breach notification requirements along with some of the more important considerations that general counsel must be familiar with in the event of the inevitable data breach.

Chinese Smartphone Company Sues Apple for IP Infringement

Last week reports were coming out of tech news that Apple was being forced to stop selling iPhones in Beijing due to a pending patent violation claim by a Chinese smartphone company Shenzhen Baili. As it turns out, sales will continue, but we were struck by the role reversal. That's right: a Chinese company was suing a Western company for copying IP.

But it gets a little bit better than that. It turns out that the business community in China is equally adept at copying questionable Western business practices as it is at copying American trademarks. It's looking more and more like Shenzhen Baili is nothing more than a patent troll.

Nevada Agency General Counsel Out of a Job After Tweets

After Carolyn Tanner suddenly lost her position as Nevada's Public Utility Commission General Counsel, we couldn't help but look a little deeper into what sounded like a "loose lips sink ships" story. Allegedly she is no longer employed due to her actions on Twitter. Tanner, however, claims the timing was coincidental and denies that her Tweet under the pseudonym "DixieRaeSparx" had anything to do with her current job search.

Personal or not, Dixie's little spat with an enterprising Nevada lobbyist shines a light on the proprieties of lawyer's comments on past or pending legal matters.

In a globalized marketplace, in-house counsel are increasingly called upon to address international issues. And recent events have made knowledge of international law and business even more important, as a potential Brexit threatens to upend European markets and as the U.S. moves to crack down (or not) on international bribery.

To help give you a hand in handling international matters, here are our top tips on international law and business, from the FindLaw archives.

The United Kingdom will go to the polls in less than a week to decide whether to stay in the European Union, or not. And current polling shows that a Brexit, or British exit from the EU, is becoming increasingly likely, driven by concerns over immigration and contributions to the EU budget.

If your business does business in Britain, the Brexit could have major legal and practical consequences.

More Whistleblower Profits: SEC Gives Second Biggest Award

On June 9th, the SEC announced its second largest award given under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program: $17,000,000. The money will be paid to the anonymous individual that supplied the agency with information that eventually led to the successful investigation of fraudulent practices in securities. This monumental sum, however, pales in comparison to the $30M award paid in September of 2014.

In-house lawyers can't do it all. In fact, when it comes to atypical legal matters like novel litigation or mergers, in-house attorneys' talents are best used in directing and working with specialized outside counsel. But like any legal consumer, in-house counsel need to be savvy about the outside lawyers they choose to hire.

To help you out, here are our top five tips for working with outside counsel, from the FindLaw archives.

There's been a lot of talk about general counsel becoming a more integral part of the corporate leadership team. But nothing pushes in-house counsel into a position of influence like a significant legal crisis.

Case in point: Heather Dietrick, Gawker Media's president and general counsel. After joining the company three years ago, Dietrick has shepherded the online blog network through a series of legal defeats, as best as one can, and has found herself in a leadership position that's fairly unique among general counsel.

Two 'Guanxi' Bribery Cases Get Off Easy With No U.S. Charges

The SEC has agreed to enter into non-prosecution agreements with two companies in unrelated corruption cases involving unauthorized and illicit handover of gifts to Chinese officials in order to increase business.

These cases highlight important cultural differences between businesses in the US and in China. Where Westerners may find corruption, Chinese businesses may simply find a case of guanxi.

If you haven't heard yet, Microsoft announced this morning that it was buying LinkedIn for more than $26 billion. The all-cash deal will see Microsoft paying $196 a share, a 50 percent premium on LinkedIn's stock, in order to gobble up the internet's premiere resume-sharing social network.

But why would LinkedIn, a company that's often touted its independence and agility, sell itself to the 90's behemoth from Redmond? Here's why.

Bank of America cannot claim attorney-client privilege for legal documents shared between it and Countrywide during their 2008 merger, New York's highest court ruled yesterday. The documents were passed between each company's lawyers during merger discussions, but before the union had been completed. The bank may now be compelled to release those legal communications, made at the height of the subprime mortgage crisis and ensuing Great Recession.

The ruling is a blow to Bank of America, which had sought to protect the documents, which may reveal to what extent Countrywide considered its liability for fraud connected to its mortgage-backed loans.

Federal agencies, that fourth branch of government, have been increasing regulation and enforcement actions in the past years, expanding readings of federal employment laws, targeting individual corporate officers, and even inching closer and closer to institutions once considered "too big to jail." And as government enforcement becomes increasingly robust, many old lessons are starting to change.

To help you stay on top of it all, here are our top pieces on recent government litigation and enforcement trends, from the FindLaw archives.

DropBox GC Ramsey Homsany Is Leaving

The latest in news on the in-house counsel front is that Ramsey Homsany will be leaving the GC seat of file-sharing company DropBox. He will be replaced by the company's head of regulatory and litigation affairs, Bart Volkmer.

Homsany apparently leaves DropBox behind without having another job immediately in the pipeline. But seeing as he is one of the most recognizable names in Silicon Valley, we're sure he'll land on his feet wherever he ends up.

For three decades, Geoffrey Chism worked with Tri-State Construction, a construction company in the Pacific Northwest, first as outside counsel, then general counsel and sole in-house attorney. In that role, Chism renegotiated his salary and bonus agreements, then sued Tri-State a few years later for failing to honor them. After a month-long jury trial, Chism won $1.5 million.

But the judge, finding "numerous misrepresentations and omissions" in Chism's negotiations with Tri-State, ordered him to disgorge $1.1 million of that award. The ruling shocked many in-house attorneys. But in-house lawyers can breathe a sigh of relief now, as the trial court's disgorgement order was recently reversed on appeal.

Oracle Is in Court Again, Now as Defendant Against HP

It has not been a good recent set of weeks for Silicon Valley fixture Oracle. Only after a few weeks since Ellison's company lost a $9 billion API appeal (for now) against Google over allegations of copyright infringement, it now finds itself on the defense from a suit by HP.

Actually, that's a bit of a misnomer. The roots of the suit were kind of on the wall back when the two companies signed up to do business with each other back in 2010.

Today's Lesson: It Pays to Be a Low-Down Sni -- Whistleblower

Wondering how a once loyal employee could blow the whistle on the company? We'll tell you how: money. (Or a strong commitment to the rule of law. But money helps even then.)

But one of the more difficult issues that an in house lawyer might have to do deal with is the occasional whistleblower. Just a few decades ago, whistleblowing was something that companies only expected from disgruntled employees. But now, there's real profit to be had for the employee out to make some additional cash. Here's what the in-house practitioner should know.

For years, minimum wage and overtime rules stayed the same amidst a rapidly changing economy. But no more. Two weeks ago, the Obama administration moved to expand overtime coverage to millions of employees, the first major change to overtime rules in over a decade. At the same time, states such as New York and California have started to raise their minimum wages to more than double the federal minimum.

All this change means that your old way of doing things might need some adjusting. To help you out, here are our top wage and hour tips, from the FindLaw archives.

Uber Wars: Was the Settlement Too Little or Just Right?

A few weeks have passed since plaintiffs' attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan negotiated a controversial $100 million on behalf of Uber drivers who sought backpay, benefits, and other damages over their supposed "misclassification" by the company.

The settlement has yet to be approved, but many plaintiffs are angered by the settlement, including the suit's lead plaintiff.