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Ten Things: “Cool Tech” for In-House Counsel (2022 Edition)

Well, it’s August and that means lots of things.  If you live in Texas, it means you are seriously regretting your decision to move here because it is just stupid hot and humid.  Apparently, housing lots in Hell are sold out as Texans look to move someplace cooler.  August also means it is time for my annual “Cool Tech” blog – one of my favorites.  Somehow, this is the eighth year in a row where I will share technology and tech-related ideas that can make life easier (or a smidge better) for in-house counsel.  If you want to check out past editions of my “Cool Tech” blog, here you go:

There is a lot of great technology discussed in these past editions and they are worth reading to find a gem or two that works best for you.

You probably know that I am a bit of a technology geek.  Not that I have any special powers (I am as afraid of screwing something up as you are), but rather because I wholeheartedly believe that technology can make an in-house lawyer’s job easier, improve the capabilities of the legal department, and help show the value generated by the legal team.  In my “Cool Tech” posts, I generally try to discuss technology that is free (or very low cost) and adds immediate value.   While I think e-billing systems, matter management systems, document management systems, electronic signatures, and so forth, are table stakes for legal departments today, that is not my focus here.  If you do want to read about this type of big tech (and all in-house lawyers should), I suggest you check out this really cool fairly new site, LawNext.  LawNext is a comprehensive directory of legal technology products and buyer’s resources.[1]  I also recommend the CCBJ 2022 Directory of Leading Legal Technology and Project Management Solutions available here.  But, with one exception, we’ll stay small and focused, i.e., technology you can buy and start using today, much of which is free.  As always, I received nothing for recommending this technology to you.  I just think in-house lawyers will find the technology useful.  But, enough yapping, let’s get to the fun stuff.  Here is my Cool Tech for In-House Lawyers 2022 Edition:

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Ten Things: An Index to All the Posts (November 2014 – February 2022)

Howdy, everyone!  Greetings again from Texas.  It’s been a while since I last did an index to all of the posts in the “Ten Things” blog.  Since the last one (July 2020), we’ve added over 1,300 new subscribers and we are now over 5,400!   And we are well into year eight of the blog.  All of which just absolutely, positively blows my mind.  A huge “thank you” to all the loyal readers out there, especially to those who pass along the blogs to friends, colleagues, and on LinkedIn.  That said, I know it can be a pain in the ass to wade through all of the blogs and try to find what you’re looking for.  So, for all of you new kids and for you crusty veterans, this index post is long overdue.  I may get around to putting an index on the site, but if you saw my desk, you’d realize just how much of a pipe dream that is.  I do have a new blog ready to go, but have decided to publish it next month and we’ll put the “act” back into “practical” (man, that sounded way better in my head).

This edition of “Ten Things” sets out – in chronological order – all of the “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel” blogs, from the November 2014 introduction to last month’s post on building your executive presence in-house.  It was fun for me to look back through these.  I found a few surprises that made me go “when did I write that?” and “why do I have so much free time?”  The first ones are a little rough, but I got better – I think.  You be the judge:

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Ten Things: Best Blogs (And Other Media) for In-House Counsel (2021 Edition)

Well, here we are at the end of another year.  I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season.  As usual, I like to take a few minutes every December to reflect back on the year and take stock of where we are with the “Ten Things” blog. It’s been a busy year for me, but I have enjoyed every minute of it.  I have published my fifth book, Showing the Value of the Legal Department: More Than Just a Cost Center, I have been a guest on several podcasts (thanks!), I have put on a large number of presentations (live and via webinar), and – of course, I keep cranking out the blog.  Somehow, we’ve already started “Ten Things” year number eight!  As my mom often asks, “How the hell did that happen?”  And I am excited for 2022, with plenty of things to write about for at least one more year.  That said, I always love getting (and writing about) suggestions from you, so feel free to send them my way.

As usual, we will end the year with what traditionally has been a post about the ten best legal blogs for in-house counsel.  I enjoy finding and reading the work of great writers, especially the up-and-coming “next gen.”[1]  They have a lot to say and it’s worth reading! Like last year, I am going to shake things up a bit and add non-traditional bloggers, i.e., podcasts and LinkedIn writers to my list.  I am also going to (finally) list my “Top Ten All-Time Hall of Fame Legal Blogs,” just to give some love to blogs I am still reading after many years.[2]  Sometimes you just have to reward the wonderfulness of sticking around (right, Boomer?)!  So, with no further ado, this edition of “Ten Things” sets out my 2021 list of best blogs (and other media) for in-house counsel:

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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: 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: Ten KPIs All In-House Legal Departments Should Track

I have been struggling to write this post about KPIs.  It’s taken way longer than it should have – with several starts and stops.  First, should it be KPI or KPIs?  Just like the debate over RBI and RBIs in baseball, passions run hot on this point.  I think “KPIs” sounds better so I’m going with that.  Second – and slightly more important than the KPI/KPIs controversy – KPIs don’t work particularly well for in-house legal departments.  Actually, I had this eureka moment a long time ago when I was first asked as General Counsel to provide “SMART”[1] objectives for the legal department for an upcoming calendar year.  I literally had no clue what they (HR) were talking about.  And when I asked them for some examples, it was clear they had no clue either – at least when it came to developing SMART objectives for the legal department.  For other parts of the business, SMART objectives seemed obvious and worked great.  For legal, not so much. But, I (and my team) eventually figured it out and designed goals that were a little squishy – “SMART-ish” – but to which no one objected.  You can see some examples of this in an older post titled “Setting Goals for the Legal Department.”

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Ten Things: Sexual Harassment Claims in the #MeToo Era

While in-house lawyers are always concerned about sexual harassment claims, the last year or so has provided a loud wake-up call regarding the highly negative impact of such claims on employees and on the company involved.  While women can certainly engage in sexual harassment, the headlines over the last year – and recently with CBS CEO Les Moonves – are littered with deplorable accounts of men using their power to take advantage of female employees.  These headlines follow a sea-change event where sexually-abused and harassed woman are refusing to suffer in silence.  Instead, beginning with the downfall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein in late 2017, they are coming forward in waves with their stories, bringing with them a glaring hot spotlight on the darkest corners of corporate offices all over the world.  This is the #MeToo era.

While the news headlines tend to focus on the misdeeds of the rich and famous, for in-house lawyers the concern is local – but just as important.  The #MeToo movement provides added urgency for in-house lawyers to make sure their company is doing the things necessary to prevent disaster and ensure a safe workplace for women and men.  As usual, dealing with sexual harassment claims in the #MeToo era comes down to getting the basics right.  For many companies, it is easy to trace the devastating impact of a particularly damaging sexual harassment claim to two problems: failure to properly investigate and failure to take appropriate action.  This edition of “Ten Things” discusses the key things you should be doing to both prevent sexual harassment from occurring and, if it does, properly investigating and resolving such claims:

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Ten Things: An Index to all the Posts (November 2014 to June 2017)

I realized the other day that it has been a while since I posted an index to all of the blog posts – November 2016 to be exact.  Since the last time I did this the blog has grown to well over 2,000 direct subscribers and the American Bar Association has published my book (based on the blog) entitled “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel: Practical Advice and Successful Strategies.”  Speaking of which, last week I received the highest compliment I could imagine about the book: my Dad read it and said it was “pretty good!”  All heady stuff for a guy who started out just wanting to jot down some of the things he learned over the course of a 20+ year career as an in-house lawyer.

I know there are a lot of great blogs and websites out there for you to read (and I’ll be writing about those later this year).  So, I am very appreciative of the fact that you make time to read my posts.  Based on the comments, the emails, and from talking with many of you directly, I hope I can continue to write about things that interest you and do so in a way that is practical and useful.  If not, then I have missed my mark.  I know I have missed my mark with being able to prepare a proper index on the actual blog site.  I am still a bit wary about messing with the technical aspects of WordPress because I think I’ll delete everything.  I know that’s not really likely, but that’s my biggest fear.  Anyway, I promise I’ll keep working on it but in the meanwhile, by popular demand(?), here is an index of all of the posts from the beginning back in November 2014 through today:

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Ten Things: Index to All the Posts (November 2014 to May 2016)

It has been about 18 months since I published the first “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel” blog post.   I have to admit that I continue to be surprised by the popularity of the blog.  I have tried hard to consistently write about things that matter to in-house counsel and do so in a way that is practical, informative, and actionable – drawing on my own experience of 20+ years as an in-house lawyer.   That fact that you guys find it interesting just blows my mind sometimes.  The blog has almost 900 direct followers (and I hope to get that number to over 1,000 sometime this year).  There are also thousands of in-direct followers who get the blog via an email blast or through one of the number of legal publications that re-publish many of the posts.  What I really appreciate, however, is the many, many emails and Linked-In notes I get from readers all over the world: from Canada, UK, India, Singapore, the Middle East, Central and South America, Asia, Turkey, and of course, the USA.  I enjoy hearing from all of you (good or bad), especially if you find the blog helpful or, even better, if you have ideas for future posts.  Always feel free to contact me if you have feedback, questions, or ideas.

As you have probably guessed by now, I love to write.  You can follow me daily on Twitter at @10ThingsLegal where I post things of interest to in-house counsel daily.  I also post more substantive (but short) articles on Linked-In just about every day as well. Check out the posts on my Linked-In publication wall (and feel free to connect with me as well).  I write a monthly column for Thomson Reuter’s “Corporate Counsel Connect” e-zine called “The Insider.”  And my first book, “The Evolution of Professional Football” (American football that is), is available at www.SterlingMillerBooks.com and on Amazon.  Which brings me to some more exciting news – “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel” is in the first stages of becoming its own book.  Stay tuned for more information about when it will be available to buy (hard copy and e-book).  I will also be looking for some people to write short blurbs/forward material to include in the book, so let me know if you’re interested in doing that.

As I noted in my first few posts, I am not the most tech-savvy blogger.  But, I have learned a lot over the past 18 months and I am getting better at things.  One thing I have not figured out yet is how to create a really useful index of all of the posts.  You can search month-by-month on the site, but I am still trying to figure out how to build-out an index by category or by title.  Bear with me on that.  It will happen!  And if you have any ideas, feel free to share them.  Until then, it’s a good point in time for a comprehensive index of “Ten Things” posts (all 39 of them), hyper-linked and in chronological order from past to most current:

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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 to 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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