legal department

Ten Things: So You Want to Hold a Contest (and Not Go to Jail)?

I do love the folks in Marketing.  They are always very engaging and fun, and they have cool giveaways they will share with you.  But, I love them a lot less when they show up at my office door wanting to launch a contest. Tomorrow. Ugh. If you’ve been in-house long enough and your company has a marketing department, you will at some point probably need to figure out how to deal with contests and sweepstakes.  These games can be great promotional devices, generating excitement and interest in your company’s products and services. For many companies, these are their most effective forms of advertising.  As consumers, I know that many of us have entered such games – filling out a form, dropping a business card in a fishbowl, submitting a photo, clicking on a link on Facebook, getting a “Monopoly” game piece at the supermarket, or just buying a “Lotto” ticket at the gas station.  As consumers, however, most of us pay little attention to what goes on behind the scenes of a contest or sweepstakes.  As lawyers, we know that creating a successful one takes a lot of work by the business and the legal department, all of which will go to waste if the contest rules are not clear or if the sweepstakes runs afoul of state or federal laws. Unfortunately, sometimes your marketing team doesn’t understand all the work and complexity of pulling off a successful contest or sweepstakes.  It most certainly is not as easy as showing up at your door and announcing that the company wants to launch a one tomorrow or even next week.  As we say in Texas, that dog won’t hunt.  Yet, with some forethought and planning you can work with your marketing team to set up a reasonable process to create and approve contests that meet everyone’s needs. This edition of “Ten Things” discusses the basics of creating legal contests and sweepstakes in the United States:[1]

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Ten Things: My Boss is a [Censored] – What Do I Do?!

One of the most frequent questions I get from in-house lawyers is how to deal with difficult bosses. I have been very fortunate because – while practicing law for almost 30 years – I can count on a couple of fingers the times I was stuck with a boss who was a real asshole.   After talking with a lot of other lawyers (at firms and in-house) I realize how lucky I have been in my career.  While rare, I definitely remember how miserable I was the few times I did draw the short straw.  Practicing law is tough enough without having to dread coming into the office because of a boss that just makes your life miserable.  Still, I survived and got through it.  But it wasn’t always easy and some days it really took a toll.  I think my revenge was getting to the General Counsel chair a few times and swearing a blood oath to myself that I would never, ever be a jerk boss – something I remind myself of every day.  Unfortunately, the problem of crummy bosses in legal departments will never go away.  They are out there and they always will be.  So, if you want to be a successful in-house lawyer you’re going to need to learn how to deal with them whether they are legal department lawyers or executives in the company (lawyers have no monopoly on being buttheads).  This edition of “Ten Things” will set out some of my tips on how to deal with troublesome bosses:

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Ten Things: How to Run a Government Affairs Campaign

If you are in-house counsel and are not paying attention to government officials and regulators (state, local, federal, international) you are making a big mistake.  A company acts at its peril (e.g., Google, Microsoft, etc.) if it underestimates the importance of being aware of what various government regulators are up to or thinking. Your company can be impacted dramatically (good or bad) by what happens through government action (or in-action).   Government action can come in many forms, e.g., taxation, new rules and regulations (business specific or general), government sanctions, import-export controls, legal reform (tort law, patent law), merger control, data privacy/security, public company regulation, and dozens of other areas.  Recently, I have read articles on potential new action around patent reform, product regulation outside the United States, data privacy, Internet/net neutrality, Fair Labor Standards Act regulations, and potential new regulations of financial advisors.  Depending on your company’s business, some of these issues could have a direct impact on the bottom-line.  In short, some part of your company’s business is affected daily by government action (or in-action) either in or outside your home country  To be a truly effective in-house lawyer, you need to be on top of this important area.  Moreover, being attuned to positive and negative governmental developments is an area where you and the legal function can add great value to the company and show strategic vision.

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Ten Things: Simple Ways to Reward and Retain Your People

As I mentioned in my last post (January 8), over the next few weeks I will dive deeper into some of the sample department “goals” I set out in that article.  Today I will focus on this goal: “Build and retain extraordinary team with exceptional people.”  I always put my “people goal” first because I truly believe that nothing gets done in legal unless you have top talent that is motivated and happy in their jobs.  How do you keep and reward people so they stick around?  The obvious answer is pay them well, have a good performance bonus program in place, and let them share in equity plans.  The problem is, for many reasons, it usually is not fully in your control to make any of these three things happen.  For purposes of this article, I am going to assume that you are doing what you can for your team around salary, bonuses and equity and, instead, focus on some low cost ways you can reward/recognize employees.

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