"Most law firm lawyers don't really know what their costs are," said Susan Hackett, the former general counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel, who heads up the Chevy Chase, Md.-based Legal Executive Leadership. They typically just think in terms of billable hours, which don't constrain costs to the extent that most companies are looking for.
A FLUID MARKET
The rapidly evolving nature of technology companies is helping to fuel a fluid market for in-house talent, and there were a number of prominent moves in 2012.
In April, data storage company Box Inc. hired Peter McGoff, the general counsel at data services company Informatica Corp., about 18 months after the latter was acquired by Oracle Corp. Paul Shinn, an associate general counsel at HP, went to network security company Gigamon this past May. Michael Yang, an associate general counsel at Google, became the head lawyer at scrapbooking website Pinterest last June.
Recruiter Scott Dubin said an in-house attorney has a different operating framework than a firm lawyer and companies generally prefer to hire both staff and lead counsel from other corporate legal departments.
Dubin said his in-house placements increased from just nine in 2010 to 19 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. There are nearly 30 openings currently listed on The Dubin Group website.
Whitaker, who was named general counsel at SanDisk in early January, said he left his previous head legal post, at electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc., without knowing his next move, and very quickly received four job offers.
Upon leaving last November, Whitaker said that in addition to his current employer, he was approached by two different private companies, each about 18 months away from an initial public offering, along with a midsize public company.
Booth said it is a great market for intellectual property lawyers, and that he is "guardedly optimistic" about his opportunities once he leaves HP at the end of August, when the restructuring of the remaining Palm assets is complete.
Booth, who had previously worked in the legal departments of HP, Apple and Iomega Corp. before joining Palm in 2000, said experienced people have a "relatively easy time finding new jobs." There is a much greater willingness in Silicon Valley to risk leaving a post without having something else lined up, Booth said.