At legal conferences you can always tell which lawyers are in-house counsel. When a speaker drones on about some obscure point of law, most in-house counsel assume what I call the "BlackBerry Position." They grab hold of their smartphones, put their hands under the table, hunch their shoulders and place their elbows on their knees. From this position, they begin conducting business with a flurry of e-mails. I've seen some in-house lawyers remain in this position for hours. The speaker has no idea his audience has checked out.
You'll rarely see in-house counsel assume the BlackBerry Position when the speaker is offering practical advice on how to deal with the daily challenges of running a legal department, such as managing staff, efficiently using outside counsel or making the most of shrinking budgets. In these situations, in-house counsel sit with their backs erect, eyes fixated on the speaker and their hands ready to take notes.