tips

Ten Things: Setting Goals for the Legal Department

The beginning of any calendar year is always busy with key administrative tasks for an in-house legal department.  My next several posts will deal with such items.  One of the more daunting tasks (whether you are general counsel or not) is setting useful goals for the upcoming year.  Legal departments do not always lend themselves to neatly setting goals like the business units, i.e., it can be difficult to measure “success” in legal vs. measuring profits and sales or setting key performance indicators (“KPI’s”).  That said, setting goals for the department or yourself is important and a fresh opportunity to take stock of many things.  I always approached yearly goal setting as, among other things, an opportunity to market the department (i.e., all the great stuff we were doing), get a deeper understanding of what was important to the business, and gather feedback on how the department could improve in the upcoming year.  Meaning, don’t shirk the opportunity and think of goal setting as some type of pain-in-the-neck HR exercise you have to muddle through.  Embrace the process as the more thought and effort you put into goal setting, the bigger the payoff.  And, there will be a payoff for you and your team if done properly and with some enthusiasm.

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Ten Things: Your Company Has Just Been Sued. Now What?

It’s hard to recall a more disconcerting feeling than getting a copy of a lawsuit filed against your company.  If you have no experience with litigation, this can be a panic inducing moment.  And no matter how experienced you are handling litigation, your stomach will start to flutter as you read through the allegations.

I was a litigator in private practice and I definitely saw my share of litigation, big and small as in-house counsel.  Over the course of that time I developed a standard list of “things to do” when a lawsuit came across my desk.  I did this because it’s easy to forget some basic things you need to do up-front to put yourself in the best position to defend the claim. Below are ten things to do when your company gets sued (I have added links to additional resources in key spots).

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Ten Things: Time For a Conversation About Drafting Documents and Emails

As in-house counsel, you already know that poorly drafted documents, especially emails, can hurt your company, e.g., M&A deals can get derailed or litigation extended. You can find examples every day of “bad” emails being read in court. Labels like “confidential,” “company private,” “restricted,” and “proprietary” will not protect documents from being obtained through proper legal process.

Document requests in litigation or government investigations are broad, typically calling for correspondence, hand-written notes, agreements, drafts, email (email back-up tapes), sent files, deleted emails, calendars, spread sheets, documents on tablets and smart phones, graphs, expense reports, voice mail, meeting agenda, calendar entries, copies of media articles, etc. Consequently, it’s important that your business colleagues understand the importance of properly prepared documents and emails (and the potential harm from not doing so).

Below are ten things you can use in your daily dealings and conversations with the business to help limit problems that can arise from poorly prepared documents. I have included some links to other resources as well.  A lot is focused on emails, but the rules apply to pretty much any written communication (including instant messages and recorded voicemails).  Feel free to cut and paste these into your own check-list or email (or however you best can get the word out at your company).

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Ten Things:  All I Want for Christmas is a FCPA/Anti-Bribery Health Check

As we head into the holiday season, this is the perfect time to give your anti-bribery program a health check.  For those in the U.S., we tend to focus on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when thinking about anti-bribery laws.  However, if you work for a company that operates globally, you know that many countries have anti-bribery laws and you need to be aware of those requirements as well.  Enforcement of the FCPA/anti-bribery laws is not going away.  In fact, in my opinion, it will get even more intense over the next few years.  Given the level of fines and the reputational risk at stake, it’s important to ensure you are taking the right steps to give your employees the tools they need to stay on the right side of the line.  At my prior company, we typically used the advent of the holiday season as the time to take a number of steps relating to FCPA/anti-bribery compliance.  Below are ten things you can do now to help ensure compliance with anti-bribery laws.  In key spots, I have included links to articles or websites with additional information you might find helpful.

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Ten Things: How to be a Successful In-House Counsel

Whether you are new to the in-house department or a long-term veteran, the General Counsel or just a basic contract lawyer, there are a number of things that can help make you more successful in your career.  I have distilled a lot of hard learned lessons into ten key tips.  These are not exhaustive and there are always more, but these are the ten things I consistently taught to my teams over the years.

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