INHOUSE INSIDER Forum, News, and Career Center for In-House Counsels

17Jun/140

Do You KNow How to Market Yourself Effectively for In-House Attorney Positions?

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Once you begin to work as an attorney, whether it’s for a law firm, private practice, or the government, you will often find yourself too busy with the demands of the practice to find time to take the necessary steps to market yourself effectively for another position – whether that position is in-house or not. Gone is the on-campus interview process that allowed you to sample employers, practice your interview skills, and polish your resume. As a professional attorney, the responsibility for finding a job is your sole responsibility, and successfully marketing oneself for a job is often not a skill that attorney naturally possess or are taught during their academic careers. Moreover, if you are seeking to transition your practice in-house, the need for effective marketing is even greater. Few available positions coupled with a large number of applicants make this process very competitive; hence, the increased need to effectively market oneself to land that coveted in-house attorney position. If you want to know how to effectively market yourself for an in-house attorney position, read the full article here.

 

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19May/140

Best Legal Departments of 2014

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This year's list compiled by Corporate Counsel included 3M, AIG, NeApp, and The Related Group.  What did this diverse group have in common? They were all deemed to be multifaceted multitaskers.  In other words, those power legal departments were able to handle a wide variety of legal matters for their respective companies with nimble agility, and most importantly, results.

3M had to handle potentially debilitating allegations of foreign bribery and came out stronger with a new ethics policy and anticorruption compliance program.

AIG's GC was faced with fraud and bid rigging issues, soon followed by a company financial crisis that brought it to the brink of death, but survived the tide and became an integral part of its transformation as a company working leaner and more efficiently.

Net App has managed to defy conventions in Silicon Valley and position itself as a patent troll fighter with a focus on data analytics, metrics, and technology.

The Related Group is led by Betsy McCoy a self-proclaimed "Bulldog Litigator" who hasn't let go of any bones when it came to the 3,000 condo lawsuits that plagued her company, with only the help of two lawyers and a staff of eight.

Bottom line:  If you can do everything better and with less...your legal department might just make it on that list of true overachievers.

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12May/140

Women General Counsel, Is There Justice?

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I decided, in my spare time, to read an article about women who are general counsels at Fortune 500 companies. I THOUGHT I was going to be pleasantly surprised by what I was about to read and instead found myself facing yet another injustice. Did you know that in 2004 there were only 75 women in general counsel positions at Fortune 500 companies and in 2014 there are a whopping 106 women in general counsel positions at Fortune 500 companies. The article actually said that the number of women in 2004 “swelled” in 2014. Swelled? Really? Now let’s compare what you just read to this: half of all law school graduates are women. OK, so why aren’t half the General Counsel positions going to women? Click here to find out more.

 

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11Apr/140

In-House Attorney Compensation Trends

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Today, I am thinking about clichés that I grew up hearing and saying. “Why are you thinking about clichés?” you may ask. “Well,” I might say. “I just read an article about compensation trends for in-house corporate counsel and 5 out of the 5 trends are described perfectly with common clichés.”  I mean, come on, the trends in compensation were as plain as the nose on my face. I found myself reading the article and saying, “Duh!” and “It’s about time!” over and over. When you read A Little Something to Sink Your Teeth Into: Cliché Overload, you’ll soon realize that someone paid truckloads of money to find out information that we already know… been there done that.

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11Mar/140

In-House Counsels Prove The Rolling Stones Wrong, They Can Get Satisfaction!

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If you work in a law firm, look around you. Would you say that 86% of your peers were satisfied with their work? If you worked as in house counsel for a corporation the answer to that question would be a resounding ”YES!”

You have to be asking, “What are in-house lawyers doing that’s so satisfying?” The answer is a lot. The typical day of an in-house lawyer might find them doing a variety of law from compliance to employment law to intellectual property law. “So what else?” you may ask. In-house lawyers feel connected to their work. They see, experience, and feel the fruits of their labor first hand.

Are you in the dissatisfied category? Check out the article entitled “The Rolling Stones Were Wrong…We Can Get Satisfaction” for some satisfying suggestions.

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6Feb/140

The Schoolroom: In-House Job Market

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Let’s take a step back in time. For some of you, it might be a very large step. You’re in your 3rd grade classroom, in your little desk made of grey metal with a faux wood desktop with a pencil holder at the top, book cubby in the bottom. You may be sitting in the front row or behind a piggy-tailed little girl or, perhaps, a stripe-shirted little boy. Your teacher asks who wants to read their story to the class. You are eager to share your story and your hand shoots up. You look around the room and see your friends with their hands in the air. You lean to your side and press your hand as high as it will go and before you can stop yourself, you’re grunting with a “pick-me” grunt. You’re waiting for what seems like an eternity, and then you watch in slow motion as your teacher picks…

This schoolroom situation describes the job market for many attorneys looking to move in-house as a general counsel. As a matter of fact, in-house general counsel jobs make up approximately 10% of the current legal job market and receive roughly 20% of all applicants. It would be great if these percentages would align, but it doesn’t look like trends will be in that favor. So, what’s an attorney looking to move in-house supposed to do?

First, get yourself an excellent attorney recruiter who understands the current job market, future job trends, and comes highly recommended. Call other attorneys and read your legal magazines to locate a good recruiter. If you can find a friend or a friend of a friend who’s had an excellent experience with a recruiter, dig in and find out the details.

Second, get your story sparkly, that is to say get your general counsel resume ready. Before you dust off the old resume, it’s important to have two basic understandings: 1. Your resume will be scrutinized closer than you expect. 2. Your claims will be checked more thoroughly than you expect. All this equals: TELL THE TRUTH! Some of you may be thinking that if you don’t “spice-up” your resume, then you’ll look boring and unmentionable and that the teacher will never pick you. According to trends in the general counsel market, having a varied and non-specific resume may increase your chances. In the case of the small corporation, they may need you to be a peddler of many tasks and the master of none.

Another way to get picked by the teacher to read your story, er… um, selected as in-house general counsel is to be very specific when you describe your experience. Don’t just mention that you handled data with your previous firm. Go deep. Mention that you handled cloud-based data preservation and violation. Don’t mention that you handled financial transactions. Tell them whether you handled proxies, filings, or securities. Your resume IS the place where your story should come to life, and no story comes to life without excellent details. Forget the out-dated notion that your resume needs to be one page. It doesn’t need to be five pages either. Use your words wisely. The last word on resumes is this: one resume does not fit all. Taylor your resume to the job you are seeking.

Finally, your cover letter should be minimal. Something like this: Hey, I’m qualified, pay close attention to this experience, Boom! Let your resume do your story telling. Just think of this as one big exercise in getting the teacher to let you read your story in front of the class. Maybe, just maybe, that cute 3rd grader you’ve had your eye on will notice you now.

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28Mar/130

Why Are Women Attorneys Unhappy

Have we come a long way baby?  When it comes to female lawyers at law firms, the answers may be a resounding no.  While women represent approximately 45% of associates, the only represent 20% of partners.

Vault took a look back at its most recent Associate Survey, in which nearly 17,000 associates at law firms from across the country rated their firms in areas such as satisfaction, hours, compensation, diversity, and associate/partner relations. And in nearly all of these areas, women rated their firms lower than did men.  While that’s not new, what is interesting is that the same issues that have plagued women’s careers over the last few decades endure:

First, many female associates feel that it is impossible to have a family and make partner—and so they take themselves off the partnership track, even before they have children. 

If that’s true, so what can firms do about it?  How many progressive law firms offer on-site childcare or reduced hours with the opportunity to make partner?  Not many.  At the end of the day, it’s about billing a lot of hours and bringing business to the firm, and if you have other responsibilities, such as child rearing, and don’t want to have a partner or third parties to do it for you, the chances of making partner are slim to none.  Unless firms change the rules of the game, the choices for women will be the same.

Second, female associates complain that their male counterparts have different—and better—opportunities for business development, important assignments and mentorship.

Is this a case where men prefer other men in terms of providing assignments, either consciously or subconsciously?  Could this be related to the fact that women are not perceived as available or motivated to become partner?  Given that a majority of women are leaving before partnership there is some truth to that assumption, and this could be a catch-22 issue.  Would women partners be more likely to provide other women more opportunities?  That’s not necessarily true.  Perhaps this is a case where women may have to be more proactive and actively seek opportunities, rather than wait for them to be assigned.

Finally, a common complaint among senior women associates is that their potential for making partnership is not clear enough.

That gripe is equally true when it comes to men.  What it takes to make partner at major law firms is as clear as mud, whether you are a man or a woman.  However, the fact that men represent 80% of partners may means that the message is not necessarily what is making the difference.  At the end of the day, you have to stand out.  To do that, you have to work on the big transactions and litigation, put in the hours, and bring in the clientele.  There is no one way to do it, and firms are not keen to give its associates clear directions on how to make it, simply because there isn’t a whole lot of room at the top.

While law firms have been creating more innovative and far-reaching programs and policies, the rub is in the lack of action.  The numbers speak for themselves.  The good news is that these are issues that are being talked about, but the bad news is that old stigmas, gender assumptions, and business practices endure.

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19Mar/130

Tug of War: Firm Profits vs. In-House Savings

As more in-house lawyers question the billable hour and continue to lean towards value-based alternative fee arrangements (VBFs), law firms are quick to counter that the economy is picking and that discounted fees may be nearing an end.

Who will win this tug of war?  The economy may be the deciding factor.

A new study has some good news and some bad news for both law firms and in-house legal departments.  The economy is on the rebound.  The pace of claims for unemployment insurance continues to be the lowest since January 2008, and housing Rose 0.8 percent in February.

Confidence is also up.  According to an article by Corporate Counsel, Managing partners’ overall confidence in the economy was up 18 points between the third and fourth quarters of 2012, and 85 percent predicted future revenue growth, according to the latest Law Watch Managing Partner Confidence Index survey from Citi Private Bank.

However, while we may no longer be in a recession, the economy still hasn’t really recovered.  According to an article by the Washington Post, some 12 million Americans are still looking for work, and many millions more would confirm that it hasn’t felt like a recovery at all. That would include the people who have seen their incomes flatline or have been drowning in mortgage debt for years on end.

This is not just a feeling, but reality supported by hard data.  According to the Post, since the start of 2010, growth has averaged 2.2 percent, which would be just fine in normal times, but is lousy considering the starting point was a time of mass unemployment and general economic despair.

In-house legal department are weary of the future and continue to be conservative with spending.  As a result, large companies with leverage have been negotiating their way into discounted legal fees.  Case in point, GlaxoSmithKline increased its use of VBFs from 3 percent to 68 percent; United Technologies Corporation’s use of VBFs is more than 70 percent; Home Depot, more than 75 percent; and Pfizer is 100 percent VBF according to Corporate Counsel.

In general, law firm managing partners are concerned that clients will continue to push for discounted fees.  And they should be.  Unless the economy begins to show stronger signs of a recovery, in-house legal department will likely continue to push and receive discounted fees.

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18Feb/130

Foreign Attotneys May Now Work In the U.S. as In-House Counsel

It looks like in the midst of immigration reform by the Obama administration,things may be looking up for foreign lawyers.  Under a resolution approved on Monday by the ABA House of Delegates, foreign lawyers will have limited authority to serve as in-house counsel in the United States.

Resolution 107A is among a series of proposed amendments to the ABA model ethics rules that acknowledge the globalization of law practice. It amends Rule 5.5(d) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct concerning unauthorized practice and multijurisdictional practice.  The amendment states that foreign lawyers may work as in-house counsel in the United States, but they may not give advice on U.S. law unless it is based on the advice of a lawyer who is licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction. A related resolution, 107B, requires registration for foreign lawyers working as in-house counsel.

Seven states already expressly permit foreign lawyers to work as in-house lawyers in the U.S. offices of their clients.  This will likely open the gates to foreign lawyers looking to practice in the U.S.  But how does that bode with our current economic climate?  The legal market has yet to bounce back, and employment numbers are still low.  With thousands of U.S. lawyer unemployed and many more U.S. law graduates still seeking employment, how will this impact our market?  The answer remains to be seen.

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4Feb/130

Career Malaise: Reassessing Your Career Choices In Your 40′s

The road to partnership has become more arduous and the attrition rate at law firms is at an all-time high − 80% of lawyers are leaving large law firms by their 5th year.At the top of the list of complaints are business-development demands − not to mention billable hours and the collection pressures of junior partnership. As a result, many attorneys are prompted to re-examine their career path midway.

The good news is that switching jobs mid-career may be easier than for attorneys in other demographics. Partly due to the high attrition rate, attorneys with more than 5 years of experience are in high demand in law firms. This is also the benchmark experience level usually required by in-house legal departments. Experienced attorneys have a variety of career alternatives available (see our previous blog, Why Are Unhappy Lawyers Hesitant to Leave the Practice?).

The key; however, is to make that career re-assessment at the right time. Made too early, the opportunities tend to be either too few or too limiting to be appealing. Made too late, after 10 years of practice, the opportunities tend to not only be more limited, but also less financially attractive. The ideal time for attorneys to make the transition falls within the 5-10 year window. This is a small window of opportunity that leaves little time for procrastination...Have you re-assessed your career lately?

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