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BUILD A SOUNDING BOARD, AND IN-HOUSE LAWYERS WILL COME When Jaimee King, senior counsel at Symantec Corp., first went in house in 2004, one of the first things she determined was missing was an informal network of lawyers to discuss the nuts and bolts of in-house work. Last fall, she sent out a few e-mails to friends, and by January, she and Gianna Bosko, a corporate attorney at XenoPort Inc., and Symantec lawyer Michelle Vonderhaar had launched the Corporate Legal Professional Network. She apparently hit a nerve: her club has grown from herself and a handful of friends to about 100 lawyers today, just by word of mouth. Since then, senior counsel and associate GCs have met at Silicon Valley companies every other month to share war stories in confidence with their peers. In an environment recently soaked in corporate scandal, the members are shy about discussing topics publicly. But top-of-the-agenda matters revolve around corporate best practices, particularly in relation to securities, mergers and acquisitions and general governance, King said. “I think everybody felt the same need as I did,” she said. “There’s no question that there are tremendous resources available to in-house lawyers through very competent organizations, but in some way, this feels more intimate.” Members say part of the draw is the informal and confidential nature of the meetings, and the opportunity to learn from others who face similar problems. Douglas Stewart, a corporate governance and securities attorney at Intel Corp., said the company’s law department employs about 300 people worldwide. But most of them are too busy or too far removed from his specific niche to be able to stop and swap advice. “I think in-house people feel they’re out on an island,” Stewart said. “And the benefit of the [CLPN] organization is that you get to pick the brain of really smart people.” Though informal, the group has a management committee of corporate counsel, an IT committee and an advisory board comprised of outside law firm lawyers. The group brings together lawyers from some of the Valley’s best-known companies, including Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft, and firms like O’Melveny & Myers and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. One member of the advisory board, Dorsey & Whitney corporate partner Ted Hollifield, said advisers prepare a “newsflash” on a topic that has recently made headlines, and set up a panel discussion complete with what advice practitioners are giving clients. Hollifield said forums like CLPN give outside counsel a better perspective on critical issues at public companies. And the benefits to his practice are clear: Being on the ground with the client “helps us give much better, realistic advice.” The amount of enthusiasm unleashed by the club has taken a few by surprise, including its founding partners. “It grew so quickly,” King said. “Now our questions are: do we make it a non-profit or do we incorporate?”

Petra Pasternak

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