In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

September 2017 Archives

Getting an interview for an in house position is an accomplishment in and of itself. It's also an opportunity to impress, regardless of whether you think you're qualified. If you are qualified, or are a perfect match for the job on paper, you may just need to make it through the interview without embarrassing yourself.

One easy way to not feel embarrassed at an interview is to dress appropriately. The last thing you want is to show up dressed business casual when everyone you're interviewing with will be wearing a business suit. On the other hand, showing up for an interview in a plain, boring, suit when your interviews could be in shorts and a t-shirt could also be somewhat uncomfortable or embarrassing.

New Equifax CEO Focused on Cybersecurity

It wasn't supposed to be like this, but the Equifax data debacle probably helped many corporate attorneys to reprioritize.

The first order of business, after the colossal failure was announced, was for the company to get new leadership. Mark Feidler, a board member, has taken over for outgoing CEO Richard Smith.

The next order of business, assuming the general counsel still has a job, should be to rebuild trust. That may be more important than rebuilding cybersecurity.

Lawyer Mistakenly Sent SEC Memo to Reporter

If Homer Simpson were a lawyer, he'd have said 'd'oh' and that would've been the end of it.

But among the many mistakes Homer has made, he never sent a confidential email to a Wall Street Journal reporter. That's why this lawyer story is not going away.

WilmerHale accidentally sent an email about its client undergoing an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. D'oh!

Compliance Lessons for Those Who Don't Want It

High school teachers should be corporate compliance trainers.

Why? Because high school teachers have already scaled that pedantic mountain of teaching people information they don't really want to know. Frankly, if you haven't noticed, employees are tuning out your corporate compliance training.

So if you are charged with teaching such unwilling students, take some cues from your most effective high school teacher -- if you can remember that far back.

In what certainly appears to be the best video ever released by a legal team, the brilliant minds over at Velcro are starting to go viral, at least in IP and trademark circles. Their song and music video, "Don't Say Velcro" is nothing short of epic, and soon to be the anthem of every in-house trademark attorney.

The brilliance of the song is that it accurately explains the dilemma that in-house lawyers at the most popular companies have to deal with: The never ending flow of cease and desist letters they have to send out due to trademark violations.

Can the Boss Pay for Personal Expenses With Company Money?

It's rarely a headline when a company president pays for some personal expenses with business money -- unless that happens to be Donald Trump, President of the United States.

Before he was elected, Trump raised $339 million in campaign money with about $66 million coming from his own resources. Since then, he reportedly has spent campaign and RNC funds on legal bills in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the election.

But is it news or politics at work? And when it comes to companies, what's wrong with paying for executives' personal business as usual?

Being in house means being there through thick and thin. When a corporate disaster strikes, or there's a merger, that's when you may truly be tested, or just left out in the cold in your European sports car having to find another ten to four to call your own.

Generally, there are two ways to approach big changes and corporate disasters: You can either keep your head down in hopes of avoiding the culling, or you can lift your chin up, put your best foot forward, and try to influence where the chips will fall.

Are There Legal Risks to Shared Office Space?

Millennials are driving a trend towards shared office space, as they try to save money while starting new businesses. It's not just a thing; it is "the thing' in commercial real estate.

The supply of shared office spaces has gone from 14 to more than 11,100 in the past ten years. That's an increase of nearly 80,000 percent.

It's exciting for the real estate business, but an issue for general counsel who watch for problems with shared liability. It's like a crowd rushing to an intersection; somebody's going to get hurt.

When companies are looking to hire in-house counsel, apart from the actual stated requirements of the job, there'll usually be a couple other highly desirable characteristics. Highlighting these personality traits and characteristics on your resume, or during an interview, can potentially give you a leg up over other applicants, assuming all other things are equal.

Generally, these qualities are geared toward going beyond the requirements of the job to focus on whether an in-house counsel will be a good fit, professionally and culturally. It can be challenging to "show" these on a resume or during an interview, rather than just saying them. Try to think of brief examples that highlight these traits, and work those examples into your resume or canned interview answers.

Below, you can read about a few of these highly desired traits.

Why You Don't Need a 'Business Case' to Do What's Right

By his own account, Honest Abe was not an accomplished lawyer.

After leaving the law for politics, however, Abraham Lincoln advised younger practitioners to avoid "shady dealings" and to "discourage litigation." His personal integrity led him to the White House and foreshadowed his greatest accomplishments.

"As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man," he said. "There will still be business enough."

Getting hired as an in-house attorney is not a simple task, especially for lawyers without any experience as an in-house attorney. But, with a little effort, and some artful wording on a resume, it is possible.

For those with no experience, and even recent grads, the tips below can help put you in a better position to go in house.

For law students seeking to work in house, many will often wonder whether earning a MBA can make their JD more marketable to the in house hiring decision makers. But, like most legal issues, the answer is: It depends.

Depending on what sort of work you are looking to perform in house, having an MBA along with your J, unfortunately might not make much difference. For instance, if you will be working on government compliance or intellectual property matters, the MBA will likely matter less than a technical background, and/or prior experience.

Toys 'R' Us Files Bankruptcy: Retailers 'R' in Crisis

Even with the Christmas season coming, it must have been a 'Come-to-Jesus' meeting for Toys 'R' Us and its lawyers.

Kirkland and Ellis, a top ranked restructuring firm, was hired to look at options for the struggling retailer. Refinancing was on the Christmas list, but the attorneys had some bad news.

Bankruptcy was the only way out of billions of dollars in debt. The crisis was actually a long-time coming -- at least since the advent of internet companies like Amazon.

What Should General Counsel Do If the Company Is Going Down?

If the company ship is foundering, what does the company lawyer do?

Weather the storm? Go down with the ship? Jump ship?

All of the above may apply, but general counsel is more like a first mate than a captain. The first mate watches after the ship and the crew.

When companies reach a certain size, being hip, trendy, or popular often can seem out of reach. Corporate governance and cool just cannot mutually exist, as a GC or in house, you know it's your job to be the bad guy and say "no." 

Despite generating revenue and profits hand over fist, major companies often seek to buyout small companies that are hip or trending in order to absorb the company's consumer base and growing brand. However, when a major corporation buys out a trending small to midsize business, the loyal consumers can often be left feeling betrayed. Like when musical artists sign with a major label, trendy, popular small businesses can often face backlash for "selling out."

If you have general counsel duties on your in-house lawyering plate, you may want to consider getting a jump on your holiday season duties. Every year, without fail, the holiday season seems to creep up earlier and earlier, and as such, so do your duties of reminding employees about, and ensuring compliance with, certain policies.

While summer might just be ending, it's actually a good time to review the upcoming holiday season's legal issues. If policies need to change due to recent changes in the law, or around the business, by reviewing your holiday policies at the end of summer, you'll have much more time to push through those necessary changes.

Here are three tips on holiday season corporate legal issues you may want to get a jump on.

Amazon Employee Sold Sensitive Company Info to Trader

What could Amazon's general counsel do when an employee sold sensitive company information?

Fire the bum? Put him up for sale on the website? Issue an explanatory press release about the sale -- of the information?

The Securities and Exchange Commission helped out by explaining the details in a press release. Brett Kennedy, an Amazon financial analyst, reportedly sold inside information for $10,000.

The chips, and any prison sentences, will fall where they may. General counsel may want to pick up some pieces of the story for future reference.

It seems that at least a few times per year, there is some major hack of a major corporation. This month, the big hack involved the massive credit reporting agency, Equifax, which is quite frightening given the nature of the information the company processes.

The Equifax hackers made off with over 140 million American's information, including their names, birthdates, addresses, social security numbers, and potentially some driver license numbers. A smaller group, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, also had credit card information and documents stolen as well.

While no company wants to be hacked, not having up-to-date cybersecurity can be an invitation to hackers.

Toys 'R' Us Is Getting Legal to Handle Debt

Just as stores are starting to unpack Christmas signs, reports are that Toys 'R' Us is considering bankruptcy.

Toys "R" Us has $400 million in loans coming due in 2018, and Christmas sales will not solve the problem. Weighed down by about $5 billion in debt, the retailer has hired Kirkland & Ellis to help review its legal options: restructure or file for bankruptcy.

The economic signs have been staring down everyone in the retail industry for some time. Brick-and-mortar businesses are in deep trouble, and corporate counsel have to dig deeper for solutions.

Assertiveness Tips for In-House Counsel

In-house counsel really are a different breed of animal in the species called 'lawyer.'

For most, the archetypical attorney is the most aggressive character in the courtroom and walks with a confidence that barely masks conceit. In-house lawyers, on the other hand, too often have their hats handed to them in the boardroom.

This post is about how in-house counsel can be more assertive, without appearing overly aggressive like their counterparts in the outside world.

When it comes to managing your workforce over the summer, or in warm weather climates, having heat wave related policies can go a long way to keeping employees happy and minimizing your company's exposure to various hot weather liabilities.

Employees that suffer heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, on the job, will likely miss work, cause disruption to other employees, and may even have workers compensation claims. To minimize these risks, employers need to specially tailor their policies to best protect their employees, their own interests, and, most importantly, the bottom line.

Judge Greenlights Data-Breach Case

When Verizon bought Yahoo, it had to know that the mega data breach would come back to haunt the company.

Yahoo revealed during the acquisition that hackers got into 1.5 billion email accounts, including user information, passwords and other personal information. It translated into a discount purchase price from $4.83 billion to $4.48 billion -- but who's counting?

Apparently, 1.5 billion Yahoo account holders are counting. They have sued over the data breach, and a judge says they all have a case.

"All plaintiffs have alleged a risk of future identity theft, in addition to loss of value of their personal identification information," Judge Lucy Koh said.

Tesla Hit With Labor Complaint; United Auto Workers Joins

Elon Musk gets public applause for being a futurist, but in some ways his company seems backwards.

According to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board, Tesla keeps workers from talking about union activities, employee safety, and other issues by pressuring them and requiring confidentiality agreements. For a company that has been accused of exploiting cheap labor and overworking employees before, it is not a good look.

As one Tesla factory worker reportedly said, "Everything feels like the future but us." In-house counsel might ask, among other labor questions, "Is our confidentiality agreement up to date?"

Microsoft Plans to Phase Out Billable Hours

If you are lucky enough to have Microsoft as a client, don't complain that the company will not pay your hourly fees.

The company has announced that it will no longer pay hourly attorney's fees, opting for alternative billing arrangements with select law firms. It's a two-year project, but the future is almost here.

As in-house counsel know, the alternative fee agreement is the new normal. Outside counsel should consider themselves lucky to get the business.