In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Recently in Tales from the Legal Department Category

Some in-house attorneys lament a life devoid of excitement and limelight. But considering the plight of the in-house team at Michigan State University right now, those bored by their in-house drudgery should probably change those lamentations to celebrations.

In a recent post on Above the Law, whose editorial coverage and reader comments are second to none when it comes to legal snark, the university's in-house job was described as "The Absolute Worst In-House Job Right Now." The reason? Well, there are about ten, and each one is a different investigation or inquiry into just how MSU allowed the sexual predator, Larry Nassar, to do what he did, for as long as he did. Curiously though, ATL notes that an outside counsel is actually taking the lead for the institution, which probably makes the MSU in-house team's job even worse.

Apple's Former GC Joins Village Enterprise to Help End Extreme Poverty

Somewhere in rural Africa is a business woman who will never meet the people who helped launch her business -- people like attorney Bruce Sewell.

The retired general counsel serves on the board of Village Enterprise, which trains impoverished Africans to start their own businesses. He donated to the non-profit in the past because he couldn't do the work himself.

"Now, it's time for me to roll up my sleeves and participate at the board level," he said.

The living metal, or perhaps iron, legend himself, Ozzy Osbourne, has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Anschutz Entertainment Group (aka AEG) over a contract requirement that the Prince of Darkness play a show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in order to book the O2 Arena in London.

For performers, as Osbourne alleges, this contract term encourages anti-competitive behavior as there are other venues besides the Staples Center that are suitable for performers as popular as the Blizzard of Oz. Specifically, anticompetitive tying is alleged. Rather than living with something that just isn't fair, the Great Ozz is seeking the help of the federal court in California to enjoin the enforcement of AEG's contract term, and not just for him, he's suing on behalf of all performers and underworld royalty.

The general counsel for Midas's parent company (TBC Corp.) recently received a two year stayed suspension as a result of another former in-house colleague tipping off authorities in two states. It was alleged and eventually admitted that the TBC GC engaged in the (accidental) unauthorized practice of law. Interestingly, while the GC lives and works in Florida, the suspension was issued from the Supreme Court of the state of Ohio.

The attorney moved from Ohio, where he was licensed, to Florida to take the in-house position with TBC. Somehow, he managed to miss notices that he was out of compliance for his CLE in Ohio and that he had been suspended. And though the first suspension seemed to get resolved without much on his part, a second suspension issued when the conditions for resolving the first went unfulfilled.

Despite the push of modernity demanding that businesses tear down the cubicle walls in favor of open concept offices, in-house lawyers aren't clamoring to join that club. In general, in-house attorneys do not like working in cubicles, let alone open work spaces, due to the lack of prestige that comes from not having an office.

Sure, there are privacy and confidentiality issues to consider as well. However, depending on the type of work, many attorneys don't need anything more than a computer (hopefully with a couple large monitors) to complete it, which can really put those big concerns to rest. But that still doesn't mean lawyers want to work in an open space.

Corporate sustainability is a big deal these days, even if a lot of it is just a bunch of puffery. Nevertheless, companies want to be seen as sustainable, regardless of whether the only thing sustainable about their product is the recycled paper in the packaging.

Even if you personally view corporate sustainability as some barely-less-than-a-sham attempt at greenwashing, the following sustainable practices are just fiscally smart, though the last one might just be a bit too green for most.

If your company, firm, or nonprofit, ever hosts golf outings, or sponsors golf tournaments, or runs contests, there is a big lesson to learn from the All Risks v. Old White Charities case. That lesson involves reading and following the terms of your contest's insurance policy, particularly when it comes to a hole-in-one contest with exposure into the hundreds of thousands.

Also, in case you didn't know, apparently you can buy insurance for hole-in-one contests. But, if you do dare hold one, you should read on to learn from another charity's technical and costly failure.

When the news broke that the once highly acclaimed gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, was accused of child molestation and possession of child pornography, the Michigan State University community was probably more taken aback than any other. Nassar had not only practiced sports medicine for the university's athletes, he also taught osteopathic medicine.

As a result of the Nassar scandal, fingers are being pointed at the university's lawyers, and potentially rightly so. Recently, MSU's general counsel, Robert A. Noto, stepped down amid demands from the board. Noto, who has been the school's GC for almost 25 years, is not the only university lawyer to come under the microscope either.

Improve Your Presentations With Storytelling Structures

Nobody tells a story like a good storyteller.

Kurt Vonnegut, the acclaimed American author, had a structure for crafting stories. He said one is the Cinderalla story, and another is the Man in a Hole.

"People love that story," he said. That about sums it up for corporate counsel, especially when they have to present company successes and failures.

Every year, without fail, there will always be scandals that result from in-house attorneys dropping the ball, or maybe just not doing their jobs well enough.

Maybe you can't always blame the attorneys for the mistakes of the top level brass; after all, most in-house attorneys are relegated to specific functions rather than top level decisions. Basically, if you've read between the lines, it's the general counsel that are to blame.

And since learning from our mistakes is the best way to avoid making them again, below you can find five of the top corporate legal scandals from 2017 that you can learn from.