Minneapolis-based medical technology company Medtronic Inc. deals with a lot of patents. With six business units creating innovations in treatments for conditions ranging from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to neurology, it's no surprise that the company's patent lawyers have trouble staying on top of patent news.
The scenario is all too common: A legal department faces substantial budget cuts while its most valued law firms are significantly raising their hourly rates--leaving in-house counsel in a quandary. Some suck up the additional costs and exceed their budgets. Others stay within budget and get less for more from these regular firms--working longer hours themselves. Either way, in-house counsel aren't happy.
During a Kraft Foods media group meeting earlier this year, one of the group's tech-savvy presenters declared, "E-mail is for old people."
Today business expansion beyond U.S. borders is not only common but also expected. Meanwhile, college students increasingly choose to participate in study abroad programs for academic credit. Accenture's Global Exchange Program applies the latter trend toward the former. Half secondment, half study abroad, the program allows Accenture lawyers to work for two weeks in overseas offices. Its aim is multifaceted: It encourages lawyers to gain experience outside their specialty zone and become familiar with the day-to-day operations of far-off teams while expanding cultural understanding vital to a global business.
Xerox Corp. does business in 160 countries, and more than half of its revenues come from outside the U.S. For General Counsel Don Liu and his legal department, supporting that decentralized global business in a seamless way is a major challenge.
Keeping employees on the straight and narrow is an issue virtually all in-house counsel face. It's not that employees are purposely breaking the rules--more often they simply don't know or forgot the rules.