In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

Ever wonder why general counsel fire outside firms?

A U.K-based market research firm put that question to a couple thousand in-house attorneys in 45 different countries. Out of the top five answers, three centered on the cost-to-value ratio and the other two focused on lack of client maintenance — one, particularly, on client maintenance when a key contact leaves the firm. The top reasons were published in American Lawyer:

• “They were doing a bad job: no results and a lot of invoices.”

• “Poor service. Lots of delay. When challenged, they were completely up front and just said [they] don’t have enough resources, which is pretty astonishing for an international law firm.”

• “It has to do with quality and price. We paid thirty or forty thousand euros, more or less for nothing. So, they had to go.”

•”The main client relationship [partner] left the firm. I find that often when partners leave, those firms neglect to contact clients to say we still want your business and we have signed a new relationship manager. They tend not to correspond with you. Yet the partner who leaves always contacts you from the new firm.”

•”There was a severe lack of relationship between what the bills were and what the value delivered was.”

So, here’s our question for you:

What are the main reasons you would fire outside counsel or have fired outside counsel in the past?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Telecom’s group general counsel quit.
  • More shake-ups in News Corp.’s legal department.
  • The University of California, Irvine School of Law will open an in-house counsel certificate program next summer.
  • The former associate general counsel at GlaxoSmithKline talked about being acquitted of criminal charges last year.
  • Everything’s bigger in Texas: general counsel compensation is up 11 percent in the Lone Star State.
  • General counsels are increasingly sought out by CEOs for advice.
  • Follow us on Twitter for 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, @Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

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.

Need to Know:

Judge dismisses employment numbers lawsuit

It’s not looking good for law school students suing their alma maters for misrepresenting post-graduation employment numbers.

Since employment for law school graduates started to slide with the downturn of the economy, a number of class-action suits have popped up around the country as students claim schools skewed graduates’ employment numbers to attract new students.

The latest setback for these kinds of cases came last week when a federal judge in Michigan dismissed a case brought against the Thomas M. Cooley Law School by 12 graduates. The judge rejected claims of fraud, saying the employment numbers were confusing and unclear but not fraudulent. The judge also said the school did not violate the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, since the act doesn’t protect the purchase of an education.

A similar case was dismissed in New York in March, but there are 12 other fraud class-action suits against law schools pending across the country.

The news comes in the wake of new employment numbers for law schools released last month. The statistics were divided by the type of employment for the first time this year. Nationwide, 83 percent found employment, but only 55 percent were permanent jobs that required bar admission. (At both Maryland law schools, around 47 percent found permanent jobs with bar admission required.)

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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No money, mo problems

Looks like more bad news this week for law school graduates.

Starting salaries for the class of 2011 are down across the board. Mean starting salaries for first-year associates fell 6.5 percent, according to numbers from the National Association for Law Placement.

The class of 2010 was paid a mean salary of $84,111, while the class of 2011′s mean salary was $78,653, according to the data. Mean salaries fell 15 percent compared to the class of 2009, which reported a mean salary of $93,454.

The median salary fell from $63,00 to $60,000 between 2010 and 2011,  according to the data.

Last month, we wrote about law school graduate employment numbers falling across the country, including for law school grads in Maryland. Fewer than half of the state’s law school graduates from the class of 2011 have full-time, permanent jobs, according to American Bar Association data released in June. Both Maryland law schools, the University of Baltimore School of Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, had numbers that fell below the national average of 55 percent.

Then there’s that Boston law firm that advertised a first-year associate position with $10,000 salary.

So, per this week’s news, not only are fewer recent law school grads finding jobs, those who have, are getting paid less. But, hey, at least it’s Friday?

Law blog roundup

It was the best times and the worst of times in the law blog round-up this Monday. Though, it was mostly just the worst of times if you are a current or incoming law school student – or if you are Jerry Sandusky.

– The U.S. Attorney from Maryland has been tapped to investigate the national security leaks the country has been abuzz about since last week. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named Rod J. Rosenstein and his counterpart in Washington, D.C.,Ronald C. Machen Jr., to head the investigation committee.

– Things aren’t looking good for a Boston criminal defense attorney found guilty on seven counts of money laundering.

– Attorneys made opening statements this morning in the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing 10 boys.

– At least ten law schools around the country are cutting enrollment numbers this fall.

– And in case that was not discouraging enough, job numbers for the law school Class of 2012 are at an 18-year low.

– In brighter news, at least you weren’t these girls caught unawares (and unclothed) at University of Maryland, College Park this weekend.

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.

Hey, must (not) be the money

Forget six figures. Apparently some law school graduates are just looking to get paid, period.

Boston College Law School posted a job opening on the school’s online job bank that pays $10,000. And this is where it gets interesting: the firm, Gilbert & O’Bryan LLP, has already received 32 applications since the posting went up a week ago.

For those wondering, $10,000 adds up to less than minimum wage and rounds out to about $5 an hour. On top of that, the law school says its 2010 graduates earn a median of $160,000 a year at private firms.

As a law school official explained to the Boston Business Journal:

In this challenging legal environment, we feel that it’s better to post any opportunity that offers our graduates a chance to gain legal experience. Other job postings on the same site offer far more in terms of compensation. Of course there will be outliers on both the high and low sides, but our policy is to post any paid legal position that’s submitted from a legitimate source.

And the job is not without its perks, according to the posting:

This is an excellent position for a new lawyer or someone returning to a legal career, and a good place to learn how to practice law with real clients. … Benefits include malpractice insurance, health insurance, employer paid clothing allowance and an MBTA pass. Former employees have gone on to prominence in other firms, government and private practice.

While we at The Daily Record reported in April that law school students were optimistic about their job opportunities post-graduation, are students more desperate for work than we thought?

The ‘new normal’ v. the billable hour

A “new normal” continues to take root at law firms, according to a survey showing increases in the use of alternative fee arrangements.

Almost three in 10 in-house lawyers said they used more alternative billing arrangements in 2010, and 53 percent said they used strictly flat-fee billing on a case or project, up from 48 percent in 2009.

It’s a revealing peek into the state of the economy, and while it doesn’t mean the death of the billable hour it does underscore the ongoing debate about it — we’ve written about it here, here, here and here in recent months.

The Association of Corporate Counsel and The American Lawyer magazine do say, however, that the results of their survey show a reluctance to revert back to “the way we used to do it” when it comes to paying for legal counsel and services.

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Is Big Law dead?

A few years ago I was chatting with a local attorney whom I’d gotten to know in my technology reporting days. He and a few colleagues were leaving their big law firm to start a Baltimore office of another firm.

His entrepreneurial ambitions intrigued me, as did his reasons for wanting to strike out on his own — pressure to bill hours, a desire to work more closely and strategically with smaller clients. They seemed fairly universal, not just unique to the practice of law (at least if you substitute in “pressure to close sales” for “pressure to bill hours”).

A recent article at Slate breaks down the legal business model in post-economic meltdown terms and paints a pretty stark portrait of a model “in which the nation’s largest law firms turn the top law students into billable-hour-crazed associates and, sometimes, partners.”

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