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

30Jun/080

Companies and Law Firms Are Heading to Sao Paulo

It seems as if everyone is heading to Brazil this year, but not to Rio's famous beaches.
It’s the grey concrete and steel of São Paulo’s streets that have suddenly become irresistible to foreign companies and law firms.

Brazil – the B in the so-called Bric emerging economies forecast by Goldman Sachs (the others are Russia, India and China) – has the most open financial market of the four countries and there has been a lot of capital markets activity in the past couple of years. The ultimate tribute to the strength of this market was Standard & Poor’s investment-grade rating, awarded to the country earlier this year.

In São Paulo, there is also a significant demand from the software development side and widespread support for everything open source, from Linux as the operating system to ODF as the document format of choice. The government of Brazil has gotten behind open source in a big way, and it has invested heavily in open source technology for public sector organizations.

There is also a great need for those with skills in networking, communications, collaboration, and mobility. "Mobility particularly because the telecommunications infrastructure on the mobile side is more advanced in Brazil because they don't have the same restrictions that we have here in the U.S.," says Debbie Guerra, vice president of operations for Unisys Global Outsourcing and Infrastructure Services(see Yahoo news article).

Outsourcing spans everything from IT to distributed infrastructure, application outsourcing, and business process outsourcing for the financial service industry. "Payment skills are real hot," Guerra says.

All the major tech companies -- including Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, Infosys, Satyam, Softek, Tata Consultancy Services, Unisys, and Wipro -- have their headquarters in São Paulo. The bulk of telecom firms are also in São Paulo (See more below), though there are a few in Rio as well. The major local IT services firm is CPM Braxis. The university town of Campinas, 61 miles away, is also a major hub for tech companies, including IBM.

A rush of investment capital, coupled with surging commodity prices, oil and gas exploration and a wave of new construction, have also prompted U.S. law firms to open offices in Brazil, reports the National Law Journal.

Many have been swept up in the country's thriving capital markets climate, particularly in São Paulo, which has enticed international banks and other foreign investors to finance countless emerging companies.

Only a few international firms – most notably White & Case – have maintained an office in South America’s largest market for much of the past decade. But the last 18 months have seen a wave of firms rushing to establish or consolidate their presence.

The list of foreign firms in São Paulo is long...

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (2008)
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom (2008)
Squire Sanders & Dempsey (2008)
Mayer Brown (2007)
Proskauer Rose (2007)
Shearman & Sterling (2004)
Clifford Chance (1998)
Uría Menéndez (1998)
White & Case (1997)
Linklaters (1992)
Baker & McKenzie (1959)

... and getting longer.

Thompson & Knight (2008, planned)
Chadbourne & Parke (2008, under consideration)
Allen & Overy (2008, rumored)

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26Jun/080

Take a Tip from Disney: Appearance Counts

How much does your image matter? If you ask Disney, the answer is: a lot!

Visit any Disney property in the world and you will be greeted by cheerful, clean-scrubbed and well-groomed employees. Management doesn't tolerate deviations.

For lawyers, the question is whether it makes sense to take your image this seriously. According to an article by Mark Powers and Shawn McNalis, lawyers should take a page from Walt Disney when it comes to their image.

They suggest that lawyers and their supporting players dress the part to project an image consistent with the brand they are building. Conservative seems to be tantamount to professional.

While there is something to be said about dressing the part – one needs to take into consideration how “professional” dress has evolved over time and across generations? What is appropriate today?

There was a time when it was deemed inappropriate for women to wear pantsuits. In today’s law departments and firms, “Casual Friday” has seen its share of evolution. Are you dressing for the client? A good rule of thumb, according to Mark Powers and Shawn McNalis, is to dress slightly better than your clients.

If that’s the case, you better know your clients well. If you are having a meeting in Silicon Valley, you better ditch the three-piece suit.

At the end of the day, the suit does not make the lawyer, but does it help the lawyer make the right impression? You be the judge.

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25Jun/080

GCs Cutting Back on Outside Firms, But Planning To Hire More In-House

In the latest sign of an ever-tightening legal market, a new Altman Weil survey reports an upcoming shift in the inside-outside mix, with Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) planning to increase law department staffing and decrease outside counsel usage in the next 12 months.

According to the survey, 49% of Chief Legal Officers participating in the survey plan to extend their in-house capabilities by hiring additional lawyers in the next year, jumping from 40% last year.

In addition, 26% of law departments plan to decrease their use of outside counsel – up significantly from 16% in last year’s survey. Only 8% of CLOs plan to increase their use of outside counsel, down from 18%.

“It’s interesting that in this economy, with many CEOs reportedly planning layoffs, Chief Legal Officers are planning to hire more lawyers,” notes Altman Weil principal Daniel J. DiLucchio. “This reflects the pressure law departments are under to control costs and to do more work in-house where they are paying ‘wholesale’ instead of ‘retail’ for legal services.”

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24Jun/080

Why Are Unhappy Lawyers Hesitant to Leave the Practice?

Many lawyers reportedly are unhappy with their jobs. Yet, only a small percentage actually decides to do something else - about 3 to 5 percent according to Monica Parker, a former attorney and career counselor.
The reasons why unhappy lawyers stay in their practice are as varied as the individuals themselves. However, in our practice we often come across attorneys who are at a crossroad, and some of the most often cited reason for them to stay in the practice of law – even when they are unhappy - include:

➢ Fear of the Unknown
➢ Financial Pressures
➢ Unknown Alternatives
➢ Giving up the Dream

As a former attorney who made the transition away from the practice of law, I can certainly identify with all of the above-cited reasons, and many more.

Fear of the Unknown. As lawyers, we are typically risk-averse, and we are used to having to deal with challenges and difficult situations. It is natural to rely on our fist instinct; that is to try to stick it out and make it work not matter how painful it is. While that is not necessarily a negative trait – the challenge is determining when it’s time to give up and look for an alternative. This is not something lawyers are necessarily well-trained or programmed to do.

Time and time again, I speak with attorneys who are unhappy with their practice, and yet despite their lack of professional fulfillment, remain frozen in place by fear of the unknown. Whether the solution is changing law firms, moving in-house, changing companies, taking a government position, or simply looking at alternatives to the practice of law, making that leap takes a lot of faith and courage. It’s sometimes easier to try to cope with a situation that is familiar to us, rather than venture into the unknown. The deep-seated fear being that this “unknown” might turn out to be worst than the current situation we are in.

Financial Pressures. Leaving the practice of law altogether sometimes hits itself directly against our pocketbooks. While the practice might be challenging, for the most part, it also comes with a big paycheck. Perhaps you are still trying to repay huge school loans, you are supporting a family, aging parents and/or have invested in what every other lawyer has also invested in – a nice car, an expensive home…etc. You have been living in a cage perhaps, but a gilded one for sure, and giving up the financial rewards you have worked so hard to reap might just be too difficult or impractical to do. This is a dilemma that I see played over and over again.

Of course, there are alternatives available that can provide you with a very good standard of living, but it is also true that most of them may require you to take an initial step back in compensation. Few careers outside of the law, especially when it comes to big firm private practice, start you off with such a large paycheck. Leaving the law altogether (or simply leaving private practice) may require you to take a pay cut and work your way up the compensation ladder. In other words, this may require a financial sacrifice on your part (See our previous post: In-House Salaries: What You Need to Know Before You Start Negotiating). The question is, what can you afford to live with, and how important is it to you to be doing something you truly enjoy?

Unknown Alternatives. If like most lawyers you followed a straight path from college to law school to a law firm, you may not have either given much thought about what you could do with a law degree or know what your alternatives are. What Can You Do With A Law Degree? This is the title of a book, by Deborah Aaron, for anyone asking the question.

Basically, the book answers the question it asks with an open-ended response: you can do anything with your degree. The best part of the book is not the book itself, but the six appendices. Here are the titles:

1. The 7 Lawyer Types & Their Career Options
2. Online Job-Search Resources
3. Career Counseling, Testing & Online Self-Assessment
4. Job Options, Inside, Outside and Around the Law
5. Opportunities for Transforming Your Practice
6. Index to Legal Organizations Online

While there is no magical "list" of jobs for lawyers (especially high paying jobs), there is little you can’t do as former lawyer, as long as you are passionate about what you want to do. A key question is to find what you are truly passionate about – and the rest will come. The following job titles held by lawyers who have made that transition, may serve as means for brainstorming.

· Agent
· Arbitrator
· Assistant/ Associate Dean
· Auditor
· Author
· Accountant
· Bank Vice President
· Bar Association Administrator
· Career Counselor
· Certified Financial Planner
· Commercial Real Estate Agent
· Computer Consultant
· Corporate Trainer
· Contract Attorney
· Department Store Buyer
· Designer/Developer of Trial Visual Aides
· Deposition Videographer
· Director of Career Services, Admissions or Alumni Affairs
· Editor
· Executive Director of Nonprofit Agencies
· Fundraiser
· Investment Banker
· Journalist
· Jury Consultant
· Law Librarian
· Law Professor
· Legislative Analyst
· Lobbyist
· Management Consultant
· Mediator
· Legal Software Developer/Vendor
· Legal Consultant
· Legal Headhunter
· Politician/Political Advisor
· President of a Corporation
· Psychologist
· Real Estate Developer
· Restaurant Owner
· Screenwriter
· Small Business Owner
· Special Event/Conference Planner
· Stockbroker
· Title Examiner
· Trust Officer/Estate Administrator

Giving Up the Dream. At the end of the day, one of the most difficult hurdle to overcome may be giving up the practice itself. Becoming a lawyer is a difficult process that requires sacrifices. Once you have made it as a lawyer, (all jokes aside) you become part of an established and well-respected profession – an elite. You enjoy a high social status, your family and friends look up to you as someone who has succeeded, you have the ability to work on sophisticated, varied, and interesting projects (in general), you may be able to make a difference and work for justice (non-profit, pro bono side), and you may be enjoying the financial rewards that come with it.

Can you turn your back on a profession that still has a lot to offer, and that you have worked so hard to achieve? That’s the real question. Whether you decide to make that leap of faith or not, remember that there is life after law – and sometimes it’s a lot brighter than you could have ever imagined.

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18Jun/080

In-House Lawyers Discuss Pitfalls of Generation Gaps

A new generation gap is emerging, and lawyers are starting to notice it too. Generation Y is a force of as many as 70 million. The first wave is just now embarking on their careers — taking their place in an increasingly multigenerational workplace.

Generation Y is young, smart, brash. They may wear flip-flops to the office or listen to iPods at their desk. They want to work, but they don't want work to be their life. And that may mean conflicts, especially in legal departments where work styles and expectations tend to be more traditional.

Fundamental differences in how people of different ages communicate — in large part because of new technologies — have created gaps in the workplace. The following article from the Fulton County Daily Report discusses some of the issues raised by the generation gaps amongst lawyers. How do generational gaps affect your legal department?

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17Jun/080

Surviving the Stigma of a Layoff

Why is there such a stigma attached to being "laid off"?

While some attorneys leave to pursue other opportunities, as economic times become increasingly more difficult many are being forced out under the umbrella of "performance" reviews or lack of work. To make matters worst, many find that the stigma of being laid off can be harder to shake off than the actual lay off itself.

There is a big difference between leaving a firm or company of your own volition and having to leave a irm or company because you are told that you don't have a choice. For the most part, when an attorney gives notice, he or she has (or at least, should have) another job offer already accepted. The new job may simply be the proverbial offer that cannot be refused or perhaps the old job was not exactly the right opportunity. Whatever the reason, it was time to move on and a better prospect has presented itself.

This is how corporate America operates, and as long as you don't have too many -- or inexplicable -- moves on your resume, there should not be any stigma attached to making a transition. As long as there is a logical explanation as to why you moved from one organization to another, there will be no dishonor associated with your move.

Unfortunately, being laid off is another story. A star is a star is a star. That is the bottom line and no matter how rough the economy may be, no matter how bad the company's financial straits may have become, there is always work for the stars. Let me clarify this further. Simply because someone is laid off does not mean that he or she is not a good attorney. It just means that he or she is not one of the stars of his or her legal department -- someone who is not indispensable. Again, there are always exceptions to why someone must be laid off and there are situations where even a superstar must be let go, but typically this is not the norm.

Because this is not the norm and usually the superstar is not the one to be asked to leave, being laid off ends up having a negative connotation attached to it. Of course, being fired is, without a doubt, the worst thing that can happen in this context but unfortunately, being laid off is only a bit better.

Generally what helps to soften the stigma is when the firm is willing to say that the layoff was due to a slowdown in work and/or financial woes and that they were forced to cut back on the number of attorneys. However, firms and companies are not always willing to put themselves in a negative light and when they are, it is not always believable. It is for all of these reasons that there is a stigma attached to someone who has been terminated due to a layoff.

What can you do to shake off the stigma of a layoff?

First, keep a positive attitude. The worries of finding another job and the financial worries that come with a layoff can make you depressed and less motivated to take charge. Yet, now is the time to take some action and control over your future.

Second, update your resume and list your achievements. You need to focus on what you bring to the table, and how you next employer can benefit from your skills. This is also a good time to re-evaluate your career and decide what might be the right opportunity for you.

Third, work on your story regarding the layoff and keep it positive. Showing your ability to turn a negative into a positive can go a long way towards shedding the negative stigma of a layoff.

Fourth, network, network, network. It may not be easy to put on a brave face and talk to people, but most positions are filled trough word of mouth. You may also want to cultivate a personal relationship with a few recruiters in your area. Invite them to lunch and ask about what employers are currently looking for in candidates. If you don't have these job skills, get them!

Finally, continue to cultivate relationships with those left behind. You may want to cut all ties after a layoff, but those with whom you worked with may still have a lot of positive things to offer you. This may come in the form of a reference, job lead, networking opportunity, or simply moral support.

With any loss, it may be hard to find the silver lining. But losing a job can be the best thing that could happen to you - a better opportunity could just be waiting around the corner. Many attorneys have weathered the stigma of a layoff and gone on to lead successful careers - and so can you.

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16Jun/080

What GC’s Want – What Vendors Need to Know

John Remsen’s latest Marketing Tip provides eight reminders of what is important to general counsels, and what all vendors (not only law firms) need to do to meet those needs.
What GC's want:

1. Hire People, Not Law Firms
2. Be There When I Need You
3. Do What You Say You Are Going to Do
4. Get to Know Me
5. Don’t Surprise Me
6. Make Me Look Good
7. Consider the Economics of the Matter
8. Finally, Be Nice to My Staff

What Vendors need to do:

  • GC's hire people they know, like, and trust, not just firms/companies. It’s up to you to go out there, form relationships, and take the time to develop them.
  • Clients demand responsiveness, and in this day and electronic, that means availability 24/7.
  • Set realistic expectations, always meet your deadlines, and follow through on your commitments.
  • Set realistic expectations, and take the time to get to know as much as possible about GC's and their companies.
  • Clients hate surprises, so try to eliminate them as much as possible.
  • Make GC's look good, and find ways to add value to the relationship.
  • Remember that this is a business; you need be sensitive to the economics of a project.
  • Common courtesy to all goes a long way; treat everyone as you would like to be treated.

It makes a lot of business development sense to listen to what general counsels have to say. The economic viability of your company may depend on it.

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12Jun/080

Telephone Interviews: Tips For Savvy Candidates

Are you ready for your interview? Career-management experts estimate that more than 80% of job interviews are won or lost during the first five minutes of conversation. This includes telephone screening interviews.

In last couple of years, I have noticed that in-house employers are increasingly relying on telephone interviews to screen their candidates. While this cannot replace the type of feedback that a face-to-face interview can provide, it is seen as a more cost-effective method to conduct an initial selection of potential candidates.

That said, it can be more difficult for a candidate to make that right first impression over the telephone. Visual clues are lost, the medium is less personal, and there are more pitfalls to avoid. This article is aimed to provide practical tips in conducting a successful telephone interview.

Here is how a typical telephone interview will develop:

Part 1. In the first part, you will be asked to describe your career history and basically tell the interviewer about yourself. During this stage, the interviewer will be looking for evidence that the candidate is the kind of person who gets things done. The interviewer is also looking for passion. Employers want people who care about the stuff that they did.

Part 2. The second part of the phone screen is the technical part. The interview will usually ask the same question because this makes it easier to compare candidates. The bottom line in this interviewing technique is that smart people can generally tell if they’re talking to other smart people by having a conversation with them on a difficult or highly technical subject, and the interview question is really just a pretext to have a conversation on a difficult subject so that the interviewer’s judgment can form an opinion on whether this is a smart person or not.

Part 3. The third and final part of the interview is letting the candidate interview the interview. Remember, the whole philosophy of recruiting is predicated on the idea that smart candidates have a choice of where to work, and if that’s true, the interview process is as much a way for the candidate to decide if they want to work the employer as it is a way for the employer to decide if we want to hire the candidate.

Here are four tips to help you gain the interview response you want:

1. Be prepared.

Any executive conducting a comprehensive job hunt should expect recruiters to call at unexpected moments. Be ready by:

➢ Having a place to keep notes and files.
➢ Keeping paper and pencils by the phone.
➢ Instructing family members on how to answer the telephone and take messages.
➢ Preparing three to five key statements about your strengths and listing them on a 3-by-5-inch index cards for easy reference.
➢ Reviewing questions that you can reasonably expect to be asked and preparing answers for them.

2. Sound positive, self-confident and focused.

What you say and how you say it is critical to your career future. If you're properly organized, take out your notes for easy reference during the interview.

Some people find they sound more animated if they stand while talking on the phone. Others say it helps to keep one hand free. Having a lively sounding voice makes you seem upbeat and full of energy. Check how your voice sounds by taping yourself while role-playing a telephone interview. Listen to yourself, then decide if you would hire the voice you just heard. If not, make the necessary changes.

3. Focus on what you offer and can do.

Employers hire people for what they can do for them. The recruiter's mission is to screen candidates and recommend those who will best meet the employer's needs. Your goal is to be recommended for further consideration.

When describing your background, reinforce the positive and avoid the negative. You'll only get one chance to make a positive first impression. Stay focused by reviewing and use the key points you wrote down about your strengths.

4. Be a good listener.

Avoid interrupting and let the recruiter complete his thought or question before you respond. Ask for clarification. Use open-ended questions. The more information you can gather, the better you can respond.

5. Maintain an open mind.

Work towards creating a partnership with the interviewer. Look for areas of agreement. Build on the positive. Find ways to help the interviewer explain why your candidacy will make the employer's job easier and make the hiring manager look good, says Bob Spears, president of Fortune Personnel Consultants of Charleston, S.C. This can help you create a "win-win" relationship with the interviewer, he says.

6. Think creatively.

Prepare responses to these typical interview questions:

* What are you looking for?
* Why are you interested in our company?
* Why are you looking to change jobs?
* Are you currently employed? If not, why?
* What are your current earnings?
* What are your salary expectations?
* Are you willing to relocate? Change industries? Travel?
* What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Kathy Rogain, corporate employee relations manager for Compuware, a global software development services company in Farmington Hills, Mich., believes candidates' past behaviors are good indicators of their future success. She encourages candidates to illustrate their skills with actual examples from their on-the-job experiences.

7. Write out your responses and practice reading them aloud.

This will help you to remember the response and sound natural when providing it. By knowing what to say, you'll seem more confident, in control, organized and focused, all qualities that recruiters seek in candidates, says Ed Crowder, president of Crowder and Co., an executive search firm in Birmingham, Mich.

Most candidates usually are asked about their salary expectations during screening interviews. Recruiters and employers usually have a salary range in mind, and while often unwilling to share it at this stage, they expect you to answer.

Your objective at this point is to win acceptance and be recommended for further consideration. Accordingly, you may want to avoid providing a direct answer to this question and reply instead by saying something like, "While compensation is important, other issues are also important. If they can be clarified, then the compensation issue won't be a problem."

These issues could include non-cash benefits and compensation, scope of responsibilities, work environment, job location, career advancement and others. It's OK to ask the interviewer what the job pays, says Mr. Spears, and can help both parties in the screening process.

8. Ask about the next step.

At the end of the interview, tell the interviewer you're interested (assuming you are) and want to pursue the matter further. Ask about the next step in the interview process as well as the hiring timetable. If you don't receive a positive response and you're sincerely interested, ask the recruiter if he or she has any areas of concern.

If there's a misunderstanding about you or the interviewer doesn't seem certain that you're suitable, try to clarify the problem, then ask again about the next step and timetable. While a positive response doesn't guarantee you'll be considered further, a cooler response usually signals that you haven't been successful.

By using these eight tips, you'll be more likely to win the first five minutes of the screening interview, which is key to reaching your career goal. Good luck!

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10Jun/080

Proven Reserves of Opportunity Await Women in Oil and Gas

In the midst of an economic slowdown, there are several fields that continue to thrive and grow. Energy is a prime example. Our clients in the oil, gas, and renewable energy fields are expanding at a fast clip - and so is their need for attorneys. Women attorneys, in particular, have done very well in this industry, as illustrated by this article. While they have had to "step out of their comfort zone," and "while the energy industry remains a 'male-dominated world,'" they also "feel at home...and have found more opportunities available to them because they stand out as women."

At Valero Energy Corp. in San Antonio. Of the 30 lawyers in the company's legal department, about half are women. While the number of women actually practicing oil and gas law in Texas, the hotbed of the oil and gas industry, is hard to gauge, the percentage of women belonging to the State Bar of Texas' Oil, Gas and Energy Resources Law Section went from 12 percent in 1996-1997 to 15 percent in 2006-2007, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

The women oil and gas lawyers also say that they are seeing an increase in the number of women coming in and moving up. It's also a career that's hiring. "There is a big need for energy lawyers," affirms Betty Ellsworth Ungerman, assistant general counsel at Hunt Oil Co. in Dallas. "We've got a supply and demand situation, and there are a lot of places that are going to be in need" of oil and gas lawyers.

Perhaps this is an area for young women attorneys should consider as they begin their summer internship.

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9Jun/080

Legal Sector Loses 1,100 Jobs in May

The U.S. legal service sector lost 1,100 jobs in May, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released Friday.

The decline marked three consecutive months of losses for the industry and made up part of the 49,000 jobs lost in the overall market last month. The national unemployment rate increased to 5.5 percent, the highest increase in two decades, according to The New York Times.

Legal jobs were down 1.4 percent, the same decline the industry posted in April. That month, the sector lost 1,900 jobs.

Layoffs at large firms, along with tightening throughout the market generally, contributed to the lost jobs last month. Among the largest firms to shrink their payrolls was Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, which cut 124 lawyer and administrative positions. Hiring remains slow, making it harder for lawyers and nonlawyers to find new jobs in the sector.

In total, 1.17 million people, or less than 1 percent of the overall U.S. job market, call themselves legal service employees. They include: lawyers, paralegals, librarians, and secretaries. Overall, the legal services sector has lost 9,700 jobs since a year ago and 4,200 in the last six months, according to the Labor Department. The statistics are seasonally adjusted. When not adjusted, the department reports 7,500 jobs cut during the last 12 months.

The last time so few people were employed in legal services was during a lull ending in December 2005. [Original posted in the American Lawyer].

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