Enron, Tyco and Andersen were all back in the news again this spring. Kozlowski was on the stand professing his innocence; the Supreme Court heard Andersen's appeal; and Magnolia Pictures released a big-screen documentary about the Enron scandal. The public and the media seem to have an unquenchable appetite for these scandals. And that isn't good news for the former in-house lawyers of these scandal-plagued companies.
As this month's cover story reveals, the lawyers who worked at these companies have had a tough time getting their careers back on track. Few major firms or large public companies will go near them.
Most of these folks will tell you that they've bounced back. However, you can't help but wonder what could have been had these talented lawyers not been at the wrong company at the wrong time. There is little doubt that their careers were damaged, and that the taint of these scandals will linger with them for years to come. The sad part of the story is that these lawyers weren't anywhere near the action. They were just doing their jobs.
Lawyers also were doing their job at Andersen, though government prosecutors didn't see it that way. Prosecutors crucified the once-powerful accounting firm because in-house lawyers handed out routine legal advice. The Supreme Court is currently deciding whether or not to overturn the conviction. If it doesn't, it could have a chilling effect on how in-house lawyers dispatch advice and manage document-retention programs.
It is amazing that the deeds of just a few greedy executives could have such a lasting impact on one profession.