In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

In-house legal departments are getting fed up with paying outside counsel for soft costs like food and photocopying fees, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.

In-house counsel are pushing back against law firms charging them for legal research, photocopying and word processing costs according to a study cited in the article.

Companies’ legal departments argue that these costs are included in law firm overhead and therefore should not be charged to them.

So, here’s our question for you:

Should companies be charged for soft costs like catered lunches and photocopying by outside counsel?

Leave a comment below or email me.

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Awards and announcements roundup

Several local lawyers are receiving high honors these days.

– Victoria Sulerzyski, an attorney at Ober|Kaler, received the 2012 Volunteer of a Lifetime Award from United Way of Central Maryland in a ceremony Sept. 20.

Sulerzyski has volunteered for over 10 years at places like PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs; the Kennedy Krieger Institute; Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities; and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

– Seven local firms received recognition as  ”highly recommended” Maryland firms in the newest edition of “Benchmark Litigation.”

The list includes DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Kramon & Graham P.A., Miles & Stockbridge P.C., Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP, Venable LLP and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. Attorneys and these and other firms were also named “Local Litigation Stars.”

— Phoebe Haddon, dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, is hosting this week the 2012 Teaching Conference of the Society of American Law Teachers.

Haddon won the society’s “Great Teacher” award last year. The conference hosts more than 150 law professors Thursday through Saturday. This year’s theme is “Teaching Social Justice, Expanding Access to Justice: The Role of Legal Education and the Legal Profession.”

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.

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In-House Interrogatory

This week it is all about Facebook and Twitter, even for general counsels.

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

National Labor Relations Board Acting General Counsel Lafe E. Solomon issued his latest report on employee social media use May 30, his third in less than a year. Solomon examined the practices of several companies’ social media policies but basically maintains that when companies create too many rules for social media use, they violate the National Labor Relations Act by limiting employee rights.

Solomon is also not the only one talking social media in the workplace lately. The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill in April banning employers from asking employees for their passwords to their social media accounts.

Here’s our question for you:

What are your companies’ policies on social media use and how do you deal with the issue as a general counsel?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Now as to what’s what in the in-house world. This week, we have general counsels coming, going, even taking pay cuts. We have the details on the biggest moves in the industry:
  • Fannie Mae made its general counsel, Timothy J. Mayopoulos, its new CEO. Mayopoulos, however, will go from pulling in about $2.66 million a year to a $600,000 annual salary.
  • Weather Channel Companies named George Callard its new general counsel. The catch? This guy could be in for a bumpy ride after a former anchor/reporter filed suit against the company alleging new management did not let her take time off to serve in the Air Force Reserves.
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure named Ellen D. Willmott  as its new general counsel, the group announced Wednesday. Willmott comes to the the breast cancer charity organization from Save the Children USA.
  • 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.

Spray-paint artist headlines MdVLA fundraiser

An artist at the center of battles challenging peddling laws in Baltimore and Ocean City will be the center of attention at a Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts fundraiser Thursday night.

Spray-paint artist Mark Chase will be performing and donating his works to the fundraiser, “Fiesta de los Abogados y Artistes” in the courtyard at Baltimore’s Union Mill. (“Abogados” is Spanish for “lawyer.”)

Chase, the man behind Stellar Paintings, successfully challenged Ocean City’s regulations for street performers, which will be in effect if you’re walking on the Boardwalk this summer. (That’s his painting, “Jupiter Rising,” at left.)

In February, Chase was acquitted on charges of peddling without a permit in Baltimore when a federal judge ruled officers never saw him selling anything.

Chase also has plans to challenge Baltimore’s peddling restrictions much like he did Ocean City’s.



Cat avoids death penalty

A few bank lawyers in Chicago helped achieve a stay of execution for a cat.

The cat was facing a death sentence, a penalty  Connecticut is set to soon abolish (for people), after its owner stipulated in her will that all her surviving feline friends be euthanized “in a painless, peaceful manner” upon her death.

The owner, Georgia Lee Dvorak, 76, died in December and her estate and 20-year-old will were left in the hands of Fifth Third Bank trust officers. The officers took pity on the kitty and went to court Monday asking that the cat, named Boots, be sent to a no-kill animal shelter.

Apparently Boots has had somewhat of a hard-knock life. Dvorak took her in as a stray about 18 months before she died; Boots’ previous owners “threw her down stairs and kept her in a locked closet for days at a time with no food, water or litter box.”

The bank lawyers argued that since most of Dvorak’s $1.4 million estate was going toward animal charities, she was committed to the love of animals and therefore would not want her cat to die.

A Cook County judge agreed to send Boots to happier hunting grounds here on Earth. The cat will go to a shelter which requested a $2,000 endowment to care for the cat — $1,000 will come from Dvorak’s estate and the other half will come from fees Fifth Third Bank agreed to forego.

The name of the shelter Boots will spend the rest of his mouse-chasing days? Cats are Purrsons Too. Apparently, the court could not agree more.

A fresh canvas for MdVLA

Maryland Lawyers for the Arts has undergone a makeover.

The biggest change means my first sentence is technically incorrect. The organization, which offers pro bono assistance and lawyer referral service to artists and arts groups, is now called Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (MdVLA).

“The change is meant to clarify the volunteer nature of the organization’s mission,” said Marcia Semmes, MdVLA’s executive director, in a statement. “Despite the fact that MdVLA has been helping Maryland artists since 1985, some people remained unclear about its purpose and questions like, ‘Is it a group of lawyers who like art?’ were common.”

The organization also has new logo, website and office space, the latter part of a community of nonprofits at Union Mill in Baltimore. And it still continues to publish its quarterly newsletter, “Arts Brief,” which has one of the best slogans around — “Left-Brain Support for Right-Brain People.”

(The photo, by the way, is of Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp, married professional dancers, at their Dancenow Productions studio in Mt. Rainier in 2008. I talked to Clapp for my story on MdVLA after the couple had been assigned an attorney through to help Dancenow become a nonprofit. The group is now known as Dance Box Theater.)

Well, that’s one way to pay for law school

Brackets, shmackets — Give me a good half-court shot with five figures on the line any day. From Georgetown Law comes this video of student Aladdin Jaloudi sinking it during Home Court 24, the annual fundraiser that pits Georgetown law professors against members of Congress. Final score: Hoya Lawyas 49, Hill’s Angels 61, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless $415,000,  and Jaloudi, $10,000.

Not bad, for a second-year.

HT: Former Daily Record-er Richard Simon, now the web editor at GULC.

Law blog roundup

Good morning! Here are some law links for your pre-Solstice perusal:

For the ‘Love’ of biking

Last year at this time, Mike Hamburg was preparing to bike around northern Israel to raise money for a children’s hospital in Jerusalem. This year’s Wheels of Love charity ride will take him on a route near Israel’s borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

“A bunch of Jewish doctors and lawyers biking near Gaza; nothing good can happen,” the Pikesville lawyer joked Monday. (For the record, police escorts accompany riders throughout the five-day bike ride.)

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