In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board is under fire this week.

General counsel Lafe Solomon participated in talks on the board about Wal-Mart’s social media policy and its legality. The catch? Solomon also held stock in Wal-Mart at the time.

Though Solomon owned only about $18,000 in Wal-Mart stock, the agency’s inspector general is investigating the matter at the urging of Republican members of Congress.

“As a general counsel and career attorney, Mr. Solomon should know federal statute well enough to know when to recuse himself from a possible conflict of interest between his own finances and his work,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote in a news release.

Though Solomon sold the stock at the end of February, he participated in meetings on the Wal-Mart issue in January. Solomon’s defense argues that he received no financial benefit from these dealings.

So, here’s our question for you:

What action should the NLRB take against Solomon? How would your company deal with a situation in which a general counsel had a financial conflict of interest?

Leave a comment below or email me.

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In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

It’s all about the money this week in In-House Interrogatory.

An article in Corporate Counsel discusses general counsels’ opinions of alternative fee arrangements.

A study by ALM Legal Intelligence found that the number of in-house legal departments using alternative fee arrangements has slowly risen since 2008 while the billable hour has been on the decline. Only 26 percent of legal departments like the arrangements, however, the study found.

Many think that the alternatives are not a huge hit because departments have not acclimated to them yet.

“For corporate counsel,” one legal counsel told Corporate Counsel, “the easiest route is to have an hourly rate, and to get into an AFA takes effort at the beginning.”

So, here’s our question for you:

Has your legal department discussed alternative fee arrangements, and, if so, what has the discussion centered around and what are the pros and cons of such arrangements?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Pepco Holdings Inc. named a new general counsel.
  • Louisiana State University’s general counsel resigned.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking for a new general counsel.
  • To get more in-house counsel news, sign up for our FREE monthly email newsletter, In-House Counsel. The newsletter is a compilation of The Daily Record’s coverage of in-house counsel news as well as job listings, movements within the industry and other resources. Click here to sign up today.
  • Follow us on Twitter for the In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @BenMook@Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

Ben & Jerry’s fights for naked truth

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is not being so sweet to a film company it says is infringing on its trademarks.

A Massachusetts court has granted a request from Ben &  Jerry’s for a temporary restraining order against a company that makes pornographic films.

The ice cream company took issue with Cabellero Video for giving its films titles that were a little too similar to trademarked ice cream flavors.

The film company took names like “Chocolate Fudge Brownie,” “Peanut Butter Cup” and “Boston Cream Pie” and gave them a racy twist — “Chocolate Fudge Babes,” “Peanut Butter D Cups” and, yes, “Boston Cream Thighs.”

Whether ice cream plays a role at all in these cinematic endeavors is unknown but, needless to say, the Vermont-based ice cream company is not pleased about the 10 DVDs that Cabellero has released in its series.

Ben & Jerry’s argues that the porn packaging even sports the company’s signature cows and clouds design from its ice cream cartons. The ice cream maker said in a statement that it

acted to protect its company, brand, products and image. This is a clear cut issue where the video company is imitating Ben & Jerry’s logo, flavor names and trade dress to sell their products. We have taken prompt legal action to stop the manufacturing and sale of these materials.

The film company is due in court Tuesday to show cause as to why a permanent injunction should not issued.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

A new survey found 90 percent of in-house counsels found useful computer coding used to sort through legal documents. Of the 24 attorneys surveyed, however, the results were mixed as to how much money using such coding saved their companies.

The predictive coding technology uses specific case searches to find legal documents related to litigation. Many said the coding was helpful in that it sped up the process of reviewing documents and was helpful in big cases when sorting through thousands of documents.

Many general counsels were worried the technology would replace human review and were concerned how the courts viewed using this technology. About 27 percent said they were not sure how much the technology saved the company, but another 27 percent thought it saved more than $500,000. Another 27 percent thought the technology saved between $25,000 and $250,000. About 18 percent thought it saved between $250,000 and $500,000.

So, here’s our question for you:

Do you use predictive coding at your in-house jobs? If so, how much does it save your company?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

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D.C. lawyer (chicken) dances around political debate

When it comes to defending same-sex marriage, one Washington, D.C., lawyer is no chicken.

Attorney Ted Frank, who also blogs, has come up with a way to support same-sex marriage and consume controversial Chick-fil-A chicken.

The country has been abuzz about the Georgia-based fast-food chain in the past few weeks after its president, Dan Cathy, told a Baptist newspaper in an interview that he only supports marriage between a man and a woman.

Since then, each side of the political spectrum has jumped into the issue. Opponents of same-sex marriage declared a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” and encouraged those supporting Cathy’s views to head to their nearest Chick-fil-A and order a chicken sandwich and waffle fries. Those in favor of same-sex marriage responded with Chick-fil-A “Kiss-Off” day, where same-sex couples smooched outside chicken chains across the country.

Frank has found himself, like many Americans, facing a conundrum: he loves Chick-fil-A food, but dislikes the company’s stance against same-sex marriage. So Frank decided to take a stand — all for the love of chicken and same-sex marriage.

Frank started the website, Chicken Offsets, where people can donate every time they eat at Chick-fil-A. The money will then go to a number of LGBT nonprofits. Every $1 donated equals an offset of one chicken sandwich, and $6 is worth 10 chicken sandwich offsets, according to the website.

As Frank explains on the website:

Chick-fil-A sells $4,100,000,000 of chicken a year and donates about 0.04% of that to Christian organizations that are only anti-gay in a collateral sense. Buying a chicken offset does far more for gay rights than boycotting the chain because someone asked a business executive so religiously Christian that he insists that the stores be closed on Sunday what he thought about gay marriage and people are pretending to be surprised by the answer.

At least 90 percent of the money donated goes to the It Gets Better Project, which focuses on helping LGBT teens, and The Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law that researches gender identity and sexual orientation law. Only a small amount of money is kept by the website for operating expenses.

Frank launched the website Saturday night and reportedly had raised $100 by late Monday.

So now, thanks to Frank,  gay rights supporters hankering for a spicy chicken sandwich bathed in signature Chick-fil-A Sauce can consume the 630-calorie meal guilt-free. Well, morally, anyways.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The deputy general counsel at Verizon Wireless is taking the reverse commute and moving to a job at a law firm after spending 24 years in-house. John Thorne started at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel PLLC in Washington, D.C., this week.

Thorne was involved in a lot of high-profile antitrust cases while he was with Verizon and said he chose to take the job at the law firm because wanted “to do new things.”

So, here’s our question for you:

What are the top reasons an in-house attorney would move out-of-house when many do the opposite — move in-house after many years at a law firm?

Leave a comment below or email me.

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Lawyer puts a cork in legal career

A Washington, D.C, lawyer has chosen vino over verdicts.

The Washington Post reports Elizabeth Banker, part-owner of law firm ZwillGen PLLC in the District, has decided to quit the law and go into the wine business. Banker is opening a wine bar on Wisconsin Avenue in mid-August.

Banker has put about $600,000 into Slate Wine Bar, $450,000 of which was her own. Much of the rest of the money came from other lawyers.

The restaurant will serve some food but will concentrate on wine, a menu Banker prepared for by traveling to wineries around the world for two years.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The most talked about general counsel in the news in the last week was, of course, former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh compiled a report after investigating the university’s handling of Jerry Sandusky. When the report was released last week, Baldwin was repeatedly mentioned for not dealing with the situation correctly.

Sandusky was convicted and jailed on 45 counts of abusing boys and is awaiting sentencing.

Baldwin served as the interim general counsel from January 2010 until June 30. Freeh criticizes Baldwin for downplaying the grand jury investigation into Sandusky to the university’s board of trustees. The report also says she failed to find an expert for the university’s internal investigation or to lead it through the criminal investigation.

The report singles Baldwin out for attending the testimony of Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley during the grand jury investigation. Baldwin said she attended simply to represent the university, but Schultz and Curley thought she was there as their attorney.

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In-House Interrogatory

Not surprisingly, this week’s question is all about the Supreme Court’s healthcare decision last week. We know everyone else is talking about it, but, hey, that just means all you general counsels are talking about it, too.

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

General counsels are taking center stage this week in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s healthcare decision. The Supreme Court voted to uphold President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, including a requirement that individuals buy insurance.

General counsels both at healthcare companies and companies across the board that offer health insurance will be talking about the effects of the decision this week. Corporate Counsel talked to a general counsel who recommended a course of action in light of the decision.

According to the article, counsels should prepare for the decision in advance, mostly by letting potentially affected divisions of the company know how this could affect them. A general counsel should keep management in the loop for both scenarios and be ready to take action when the decision is made.

So, here’s our question for you:

How are you and your company dealing internally with the Supreme Court’s decision on healthcare?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • The biggest general counsel news this week is that Yahoo announced longtime general counsel Michael J. Callahan resigned. He leaves amid the legal department’s ongoing investigation into former CEO Scott Thompson’s academic record.
  • PetSmart Inc. has a new general counsel.
  • Our intern, @MattOwings (follow him!), takes a look at how local general counsels handle social media policies.
  • Ever wonder what it’s like to be the in-house counsel for The Walt Disney Company India?
  • Above The Law has advice on finding an in-house job.
  • Corporate Counsel looks at the challenges of hiring an international outside counsel.
  • Female general counsels say networking is the key to success.
  • More lawyers are going in-house in Western Australia, mate.
  • To get more in-house counsel news, sign up for our FREE monthly email newsletter, In-House Counsel. The newsletter is a compilation of The Daily Record’s coverage of in-house counsel news as well as job listings, movements within the industry and other resources. Click here to sign up today.
  • Follow us on Twitter for the In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @BenMook@Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

In-House Interrogatory

This week it is all about CEOs and general counsels.

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

Clarissa Cerda, general counsel at LifeLock, Inc., took on her job around three years ago. The corporate counsel takes on a “partner role” with her CEO, Corporate Counsel reports. Cerda takes the company’s CEO to court proceedings and meetings with regulators.

“I took my CEO along,” she told Corporate Counsel. “A lot of people thought I was crazy when I decided to do that.”

Here’s our question for you:

What is your working relationship like with your company’s CEO? Do you let him/her have as much access to the in-house department as Cerda and why or why not?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • An in-house legal chief for a Houston company created a fake law firm and funneled almost $9 million of company money into the paying the “firm” for its “legal services.”
  • Texas Lawyer has the 2012 summer reading list for corporate counsels.
  • Pinterest hired Google’s deputy general counsel, Michael Yang, as its general counsel. Pinterest has faced copyright issues since its website has users post pictures and content from other sites.
  • A former Warner Bros. executive, Mark DeVitre, will join Entertainment Studios as executive vice president and general counsel. The company produces and distributes over 31 syndicated TV shows.
  • Remember how we reported this month that more law students are interested in corporate counsel jobs immediately after graduation? Well, it’s happening in India, too, except between 50 to 75 percent of graduating law school students went to corporations this year, The Times of India reports.
  • One in-house counsel in California is backtracking and going back to private practice after about 13 years. The general counsel for Callaway Golf, Steven McCracken, made the move in May.
  • Knome, Inc., the human genome interpretation company, appointed Gary A. Cohen as general counsel, senior vice president and secretary of the company.
  • If you are interested in intellectual property law in the gaming industry, check out this Q&A by the Las Vegas Review-Journal with the deputy general counsel of Cantor Gaming.
  • The Allstate Corporation named Susie Lees general counsel this month.
  • To get more in-house counsel news, sign up for our FREE monthly email newsletter, In-House Counsel. The newsletter is a compilation of The Daily Record’s coverage of in-house counsel news as well as job listings, movements within the industry and other resources. Click here to sign up today.
  • Follow us on Twitter for the In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @BenMook@Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.