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What Not To Do
As an editor, I'm always looking for balance. When my colleagues and I plan an issue, or sift through the news to decide what will go onto CorpCounsel.com on a given day, we're always looking for a mix of features, surveys, advice, and news.
This month's three featuresthe stories that editors call the "feature well"are a good example of the sort of mix we strive for.
The cover piece is as good a saga as any about what not to do. Sue Reisinger's tale of woe at Eaton Corporation could serve as the basis for either an ethics class or a seminar on how to botch litigation. Turn to page 60 for the details, but quickly, it's about how anger about the departure of a few key engineers to a new competitor led a company to descend into levels of bad tactics, unwise hires, manipulation of a judgeyou name it.
I can't really speculate much on the motives of the players. But it seems clear that emotions ran high, and it led to a sort of Ramboesque risk-taking. If Eaton execs and their lawyers had just taken some lawyerly distance, they might have avoided what ensued.
Why do we run these kinds of stories? Let me hasten to say that this is classic outlier stuff. Most of our readers are doing the right thing by their companies and their profession every single day. But it's instructive to see what can happen when they don't. It's a good read, too, even if it would have been better for all concerned if these events hadn't happened.
Our second feature is by our ace small-law-firm correspondent, Susan Hansen. A former reporter and editor at our sibling publication The American Lawyer , Hansen has long been charting what smaller, more nimble law firms do for big clientsfor many of our readers, in fact. Hansen deftly shows the personal relationships that lead people to work closely together. The lawyers at the firm she writes about, the Milwaukee litigation boutique Gass Weber Mullins, had worked at another firm earlier in their careers, and they saw that time as a golden era that they wanted to re-create.
The lesson? Lawyers, both in-house and at law firms, may be business actors, and court warriors. But practicing law is a profession, first and foremost. And personal ties count as much as what's on a spreadsheet, or an e-billing document.
The third feature is our latest in our Diversity Digest series, and it examines the roles of women in-house. Reporter Catherine Dunn pulled together a nuanced look at why many women go in-house, for lifestyle and other reasons.
But she also flags the fact that you can't assume that doing so will automatically make finding that elusive career/life balance easier. There are a lot of tasks that in-house lawyers perform (and those that lawyers in private practice don't) that have little to do with the art of lawyering, and everything to do with the corporate culture they've had to adopt to survive in their new environment. That balance thing, again.