For the past few years following the economic downturn, inside counsel have commiserated over the tightening budgets, smaller staffs and logistical challenges they confront each day in their legal departments.
While the extreme pressure can be exhausting, some in-house lawyers are standing firm in the face of adversity by focusing all of their energy on one thing: innovation.
Although the recent recession is usually cast in a negative light, it turned out to be a positive time for Debra Kuper, VP, general counsel and corporate secretary at AGCO Corp., a Fortune 500 farm-equipment manufacturer. The downturn propelled her professional creativity, reduced AGCO’s outside legal spend and united the company’s law department on an international scale.
Endless blog posts, webinars, legal magazine articles and panel discussions over the past few years have chewed on the question of whether there is a viable option to the billable hour for compensating outside counsel.
Relocating a family to another part of the country can be a wrenching experience. So can being part of a close-knit team that is dismantled after successfully working together for years. A legal department litigation group in Boise, Idaho, confronted both of those undesirable prospects in 2004 when OfficeMax Inc. sold off the manufacturing businesses of its predecessor company, Boise Cascade, and announced it would move its corporate headquarters to Naperville, Ill.
In-house counsel resoundingly agree that litigation is extremely expensive. Many companies opt for quick settlements as opposed to prolonged court battles that can rack up serious costs. But Newegg Inc., an online retailer of IT and consumer-electronic products, is a fighter—particularly against nonpracticing entities, commonly referred to as “patent trolls,” that sue companies for allegedly infringing upon patents.
The rise of social media use for for businesses is akin to the rapid spread of Hellenistic culture during the reign of Alexander the Great—both conquered much of a known world in a few short years. But with the social media landscape still largely uncharted and unregulated, companies first must establish a viable, expansive social media policy before mobilizing the troops.
Perhaps no piece of legislation since the Sarbanes- Oxley Act of 2002 has spurred more consternation among financial services businesses than the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Having celebrated its one-year anniversary in July, Dodd-Frank has forced scores of businesses to reform their practices thanks to myriad new regulations.
Griffin Peabody is every employer’s worst nightmare. He manages to violate just about every ethics and compliance standard, from trading on insider information to posting inappropriate anonymous comments on social media sites to bribing a foreign official with World Cup tickets. In the end, the clueless Peabody always gets caught.
It’s an age-old problem: Company works tirelessly to incorporate more diverse lawyers into its legal department, and then struggles to understand why it’s so hard to find quality candidates with varying backgrounds. But legal departments are already looking within a small pool of possible candidates, so when that company is confined to hiring only experienced lawyers who understand specific industries, it’s not surprising they continually fall short.
The first thing that usually comes to mind when thinking about amusement parks is fun. But for Michael Baroni, it’s safety. A year and a half ago, when Baroni took over as general counsel of Palace Entertainment—a company that owns and operates theme parks, water parks and family entertainment centers nationwide—he made instituting clear safety initiatives throughout Palace’s 40 locations his top priority.
Late last year, when Matthew Fawcett joined NetApp as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary, he immediately noticed a problem. The global legal department at NetApp—a fast-growing provider of storage and data management solutions—was operating in silos. Each geographical region of the legal department had its own website, knowledge management was handled over email, communication between the lawyers throughout the organization was inconsistent and many of the in-house attorneys had never met NepApp lawyers working in other offices.