legal

Ten Things: The Productive Power of “Little Things”

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously wrote in his poem Leviathan that, “Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” That is a startling clear sentiment, both powerful and scary… Um, sorry. This has absolutely nothing to do with today’s “Ten Things” post. Just got off on a tangent here.  Let me start over…

I have always been able to get a lot of things done in a day.  I never really thought much about it. I just assumed everyone was the same.  Over time I realized that was not the case.  Everyone has a different ability or capacity to get things done in a day or a week or a month.  I just happened to be really good at it.  I was never really sure why.  I certainly wasn’t the smartest person in the room – though I know now that being smart has little to do with it.  It isn’t because my concentration abilities surpass those of mere mortals.  I get as distracted by things as the next person.  Nope, I could never put my finger on it.  Then a few years back I came upon an interview with time-management author Laura Vanderkam.  She led off with this statement, “Small things done consistently add up to big things.” It was literally as though someone had turned on the lights in the room.  I had not been bitten by a radioactive spider. I had no secret superpower.  I had simply stumbled upon the productive power of “little things!”  This edition of “Ten Things” discusses what this is and how in-house counsel can harness it to get things done:

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Ten Things: Essential Issues for In-House Counsel (2021 Edition)

Welcome back, everyone!  I hope your holidays were joyful and restful (and COVID-free).  I was able to make a bit of a dent in the next book, so the ABA goons are leaving me alone… for now.  I did have some time to squeeze in the first “Ten Things” blog of 2021.  As usual, and like I did when I was general counsel, I like to start the year by sitting back and just thinking about all the crazy shit going on out there in the world and how it might impact my company and the legal team.  When I was in-house, I would use this exercise to help me plan out the year, set goals, and – most importantly – set some tripwires for starting to measure and balance risks to the organization.  So, I have been reading a lot, talking with in-house lawyers, and generally trying to figure out what’s hot and what’s not.  No surprise but it looks like a lot of last year’s list is still pretty relevant (click here to read the 2020 list).  But, there are definitely some new players on the field.  And, the idea here isn’t to figure out every possible thing that can cause problems or provide opportunity – that’s impossible (See COVID-19 for more details).  Rather, it is about doing your best to find a lens to help you anticipate the problems you can anticipate so that the issues that inevitably come out of nowhere are easier to deal with or do not hurt as much.  In other words, looking ahead to maximize value creation and minimize value destruction.  Also, you should know that my New Year’s resolution for 2021 is to be a bit more pithy with the blog.  We’ll see how long that lasts (maybe not even to the end of this one).  Anyway, let’s start the car and hit the road!  This edition of “Ten Things” takes a look at my predictions of the essential issues for in-house lawyers in 2021:

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Ten Things: Best Blogs for In-House Lawyers (2020 Edition)

Just like I promised last week, it’s December and time for my annual list of top legal blogs for in-house counsel!  This is one of my favorite “Ten Things” blogs to write because it gives me a chance to recognize some of the best legal writers out there today.  It also means that the year is coming to an end, which in the case of 2020 really cannot happen fast enough.  After this blog posts, I’ll see you again toward the end of January 2021 as I am going to take a few weeks off and focus on my next book which is woefully behind schedule – and the ABA keeps sending its black-clad goons to my house to make sure I get back to work (the ABA is ruthless… and well-armed).  As usual, I will not list any past “winners” but I do encourage you to go back and check those blogs as well – they are all worth your time.[1]  Also, I realized at some point this year that in-house lawyers are truly starting to consume legal information in many different ways other than written blogs.  So, for the first time, I am going to point out some podcasts, LinkedIn writers, and Twitter feeds I think you might like. Which is a great reminder for anyone reading this blog: nothing is stopping you from writing your own blogs, posting LinkedIn commentary, or recording your own podcasts.  If you have something to say, join in.  It’s never been easier to do and your voice is just as important as anyone else’s – and any practical knowledge you can share with others is always welcomed.  With no further sermonizing, here is the “Ten Things” 2020 list of top blogs for in-house lawyers:

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Ten Things: My Favorite “Ten Things” Blog Posts

Hi everyone!  I hope you are either knee-deep in or getting ready for a wonderful holiday season. I know that I promised that my next post would be the annual best legal blogs edition but I decided to take a short detour (which I get to do because it’s my blog).  I promise that before 2020 is over, I will post the best blogs edition. For today, however, I wanted to take up a question I have gotten repeatedly over the past six years or so of writing this blog: which posts are my personal favorites?  So far, I have been able to nimbly dodge the question, like a Mike Pence press conference.  It’s not that I don’t have favorites (I do) – I’ve just been too lazy to go back through all 128 blogs and pick which ones I like best.  Today, however, I have been waxing a bit nostalgic about the blog and have re-read a number of the older ones and, while doing so, started putting a list together in my head about which ones I would most highly recommend to an in-house lawyer new to the blog.  Rather than keep them in my head (where, trust me, there is plenty of room), I decided to write them down.  It’s not an easy task (making the list that is, the writing down part is pretty easy).  I think they are all interesting and useful, but – like in Animal Farm – some are more interesting and useful than others (and if you have never read Animal Farm – time for you to remedy that oversight pronto).   So, in no particular order, here are my top ten favorite “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel” blog posts:

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Ten Things – What Should In-House Counsel Do During Trial?

Trials are rare.  Like wins for the Dallas Cowboys or finding gold on Oak Island (seriously, guys give it up!).  If you have been practicing law long enough you know that most commercial litigation never goes to trial (at least here in the USA). Disputes typically get settled either through mediation or on the eve of trial.  Unfortunately, everyone spends a lot of money and time before that eventuality occurs.  This is why it is important for in-house lawyers to properly explain the litigation process to the business, especially to senior management.[1]  If they know what’s likely to happen, odds are good you won’t get yelled at (well, not yelled at as much). As I have noted before – litigation is a fool’s game.  But, it is a game that every in-house lawyer will likely have to play at least once.  And, despite the cost, the risk, the smell, and the general messiness of it all, every once in a while, cases go to trial.

Pre-Coronavirus, this meant everyone heading down to the courthouse for a good old-fashioned battle royal (that’s American for “melee”). In-house lawyers tagged along, even though they really didn’t have much to do in terms of actually putting on/defending the case.  Still, they do have a role.  A very important one. And when the “Great Pandemic” passes, and the courts reopen, trials will pick back up and in-house lawyers everywhere will need to be prepared in case their company is actually part of an honest to goodness trial.  If you have never been part of the process before, it can be intimidating and a bit scary – and you will likely be unsure just what the hell you should be doing other than staying out of the way.  I have been part of many trials as an in-house lawyer and this edition of “Ten Things” will set out some of the things in-house lawyers should be doing at trial:[2]

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Ten Things: How to Fire Someone

I am sure that by the title alone you realize there will not be a lot of the usual jokes and funny comments in this edition of the blog.  That’s because there is simply nothing humorous about having to fire someone, probably among the most difficult tasks faced by any in-house lawyer who manages people.  After questions about how to show value, the most frequent question I get from readers is “how do I fire someone?”  Actually, it is usually phrased as “should I fire [someone]?”  My initial thought is that if you have gotten to the point where you, as a manager, are asking these questions, it is not really a matter of “if,” it is a matter of “when.”  But, if you want to advance in the legal department, and if you want to become general counsel, it is almost inevitable that at some point in your career you will have to fire someone.  Is it ever fun? No.  Is it stressful? Yes.  Is it ever easy? Usually not (unless someone does something so awful that immediate termination on the spot is the only appropriate response).  I have had these difficult conversations numerous times over the course of a long in-house career.  Fortunately, not many.  But, I remember each of them very well along with what went into coming to the decision and preparing for the conversation.  This edition of “Ten Things” will set out some of the things you need to know to properly fire someone in the legal department:

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Ten Things: Sherman Act Section 1 – The Monopoly Man Cometh (Again) … and He’s Not Alone!

Antitrust law and Big Tech is hot right now.  BTS/Blackpink K-Pop hot.  Here in the USA at least, where the Department of Justice is on the verge of suing Google for (alleged) competition law violations, the DOJ and the FTC are waist-deep into investigating Big Tech generally, and a panel of the House of Representatives just issued a report calling for the break-up of Big Tech.  In Europe, regulators are looking at specific laws to dampen the influence of Big Tech by limiting certain tactics – and where Amazon is about to take its turn in the dock. Most of the behavior in question is what is known as single-firm conduct, i.e., companies acting alone but in ways that draw scrutiny from competition regulators and private litigants.  I wrote about this a while back in a post titled “Sherman Act Section 2 – The Monopoly Man Cometh.”  Clever title aside,[1] it is a fairly detailed look into single-firm conduct and where problems typically arise.  But, these investigations are also looking at Big Tech contracts and agreements.  So, now is a good time to take a look at Section 1 of the Sherman Act, i.e., agreements between one or more parties that may violate antitrust law.[2]  As you will see, it can be just as murky and confusing as Section 2 (and that’s saying something).  Unlike Section 2, however, it is typically easier to counsel the business on how to stay out of trouble when it comes to improper agreements vs. single-firm conduct.  And, no matter where you practice, most of the concepts below apply as competition law globally is similar when it comes to this issue.  This edition of “Ten Things” provides an overview of Section 1 and lays out some things you should be counseling your business colleagues on to help them avoid tripping up on anticompetitive agreements:

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Ten Things: Making Yourself “Indispensable”

This may explain many things about my personality but I have always gone to work feeling like I could get fired any day and at any time.  I am not sure why that is the case (and I am not particularly interested in lying on a couch and talking it out).[1]  I just accept that it’s how I am.  The fear of getting fired has always driven me to find ways to not get fired.  Ultimately, I settled on always trying to be the most valuable member of any legal team I was part of.  I figured that the last person to get fired (short of bringing a handgun to the office and taking some potshots at the boss) is the most valuable person on the team, i.e., the “indispensable” MVP.  And that mentality generally served me well over the past 30 years or so (though there is a fine line between making yourself valuable and being a sap – and Mrs. Ten Things thinks I may have drifted over the line on occasion).  As I look around this never-ending pandemic, Covid-y world, I can imagine that many in-house lawyers may be feeling the same type of anxiety, especially if your company is not exactly thriving in the current economic climate.  But, even if that is not the case, I have spent a good part of the past six months or so writing about how legal departments can show their value to the organization.  How individual members of the department can do the same is a natural extension of that theme and a worthy goal.  This edition of “Ten Things” sets out some ways you can work to make yourself “indispensable” to the legal team and the company:

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Ten Things: Rules All In-House Counsel Should Live By

I was recently interviewed by Mel Scott for her awesome the “Counsel” podcast.[1]  I had a lot of fun talking with her and we chatted a good bit offline before she hit “record.”  Part of that discussion was about how the Ten Things blog got started.  If you bought the first Ten Things book, you know the story from the introduction section.  If you haven’t gotten around to shelling out your hard-earned dough (or better yet, expensing it to the company), the short story is that I was speaking at a legal event in late 2014 and afterward some young in-house lawyers came up to me and started asking me questions about things they should be doing to advance their careers.  Never being one to shy away from handing out some pearls of wisdom, I mentioned several things that came to mind.  All of which they proceeded to write down.  Hmmm, I thought.  If anyone should be writing this stuff down, it should be me!  And that, my friends, is how it all started.  What I don’t talk as much about is that many of the posts come from presentations I made to my various in-house teams, at off-sites, team meetings, small groups, etc.  If there was a projector or a whiteboard, it was time to break things down!

Last week I was cleaning out a bunch of old files on my computer (because that’s how I roll).  I had the television on in the background and one of my favorite movies was playing, Zombieland.  If you have never seen it, please correct that oversight at your first opportunity.  If you have seen it, you know that Jesse Eisenberg’s character, “Columbus,” has a list of rules that he relies on to survive the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Zombieland.  The rules are all tried and true common sense things that will help keep you safe.  Just as Columbus was discussing the merits of “cardio” and the “double-tap,” I came across a document in my files from 2012 – my rules for surviving as an in-house lawyer.  Wow!  Coincidence? Fate? Divine inspiration? I’m not sure.  But, it doesn’t matter – I had found my next blog post!  I remember writing these “Rules” down one night and presenting them to my team at an off-site and looking through them brought back a lot of great memories of all of those fantastic people who I miss every day (some of whom even read this blog on occasion).  Moreover, as I read through the rules I realized a) they are still 100% valid, b) you can see a lot of what became Ten Things posts in these rules, and c) if there is a zombie attack, these are pretty worthless (except maybe for “eat lunch” – if you’re a zombie).

Regardless, this edition of Ten Things will be a little different.  I am simply going to republish my rules as written.  No embellishment, no snarky commentary, no cut off at “10.”  Just a list of rules all in-house counsel can take to heart to survive the apocalyptic wasteland that is the Covid-ridden, murder-hornet-ed, wildfired, election year hell we call 2020.  Ready? Here we go:  (more…)

Ten Things: “Cool Tech” for In-House Lawyers (2020 Edition)

Okay, let’s just admit it – 2020 has kind of sucked.  Like an episode of [Not] Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet (and, hopefully, ten seasons of not finding him will sate everyone’s Bigfoot lust). I read on Facebook that 2020 is proof that time-travel has been invented because someone keeps going back to February 2020 to try and “fix things” but only ends up making everything worse (“killer hornets” for crying out loud…).  It’s also an election year here in the USA which means the stupid factor needle is buried deep in the red. Oh, the humanity.  But, there is some good news I can share.  It’s August.  And August means it’s hot here in Texas.  Crazy hot.  August also means it’s time for my annual “Cool Tech” blog!  Something I look forward to writing every year, i.e., my top ten list of cool technology I think all in-house lawyers should check out.  This is the sixth edition and you can check out past editions here: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.  As always, I get nothing for listing these items.  It’s just my opinion that these are worthy of your checking out.  And with no further ado (or footage of Bigfoot),[1] this edition of “Ten Things” sets out my “Cool Tech” picks for 2020:

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