X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Joseph Sweeney knows all about the lawyer-as-obstacle model. In the past, he worked for a CEO who delighted in whipping up his sales force and then relying on Sweeney’s law department to rein them in. Sweeney prefers his current paradigm: the lawyer as helper. For seven years, as chief legal officer of Silicon Valley’s Applied Materials, Inc. — a $6 billion manufacturer of machines that make microchips — Sweeney has built a team whose job, to mix old slogans, isn’t just saying no, but finding a way to get to yes. It’s worked for Sweeney and evidently for his 34-lawyer staff, who give the company high marks on our Quality of Life survey. Nearly 90 percent of the in-housers at Applied found their work very interesting, compared with 78 percent of all those polled. Sweeney, 51, began by taking his lawyers out of their ghetto and sprinkling them throughout the company. Most of his lawyers now have two offices, one in the law department and one in the group to which they are assigned, including human resources, intellectual property, products, and mergers and acquisitions. Lawyers also are resident in the branch offices that Applied has set up in Austin, Amsterdam, Japan, and Taiwan. “What we try to do is get involved in the front end — the structuring of deals. That way we can be much more aware and knowledgeable about the goals and provide better advice,” Sweeney says. “We get full-cycle involvement.” For example, a lawyer was part of the new business development group that pursued Applied’s recent acquisition of Hayward, Calif.-based Etec Systems, Inc., a manufacturer of equipment that makes masks used in the chip-building process. Brent Gammon, director of regional legal services, was on board before Sweeney’s arrival. Now, he says, “the department is more responsive to clients’ needs and wishes. Joe has driven that.” Six of the 18 respondents feel that they are part of the business team, and eight more indicate that their advice is sought and respected. Sweeney’s shop is notable, too, for its diversity. Nearly half the attorneys on staff are minorities: 14 are Asian American; one is Filipino American. Contract lawyers include one Hispanic and several other Asian Americans. That puts Applied Materials ahead of many companies on this front — even in the Silicon Valley area. At Mountainview, Calif.’s Sun Microsystems, about 10 percent of the company’s 161 lawyers are Asian American. All told, according to the San Francisco-based Minority Corporate Counsel Association, minorities comprised 12.9 percent of in-house counsel at Fortune 500 companies in 1999. Of that, 7.3 percent were African American, while 2.5 percent were Asian American, and 2.3 percent were Hispanic. The Applied Materials track record inspired half of the company’s respondents to the Quality of Life survey (with 18 of the 34 participating) to praise the company’s advancement opportunities for minorities as “above average” (39 percent) or “outstanding” (another 11 percent). Of course, a large Asian American population in the Santa Clara, Calif., area, Applied Materials’s home base, helps Sweeney make good on his commitment. When it comes to diversity, says Marie Cawley, who heads Applied Materials’s human resources legal division, Sweeney “doesn’t just philosophize.” Not only does he hire minorities and women, she says, he also promotes them. Cawley is one of the most senior (with a direct report to Sweeney) of five women promoted in the past three years. There are a total of four women now among the law department’s 19 executives. Overall, one-third of the lawyers on staff are female. More than 70 percent of those who responded to the survey (male and female) said that opportunities for women were above average (50 percent said “above average”; 22 percent said “outstanding”). There were some complaints about practicing law at Applied. “We are too thinly staffed, which means too much work for everyone,” one lawyer wrote. It’s “easy to work more hours than you want to,” wrote another. But others called the hours “reasonable.” Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said they work 46-55 hours; nearly 17 percent said 56-65 hours; and almost 6 percent, 66-75. Charmaine Mesina joined Applied Materials from a government position with the Securities and Exchange Commission more than four years ago. She says the workload is more than one might expect: “People come in-house and think it’s a cushy 8 to 5 job. That’s not the case at all.” Only 17 percent of the Applied respondents said the stress and long hours were adversely affecting them, however; the average for the survey sample was 20 percent. “If our customers sell a lot of PCs and cell phones, there’s a high demand for chips and a demand for our equipment,” and therefore more work for the legal department, says Barry Quan, the vice president of legal affairs who reports directly to Sweeney. Applied uses contract attorneys to help with the extra load. “It’s cheaper than using law firms,” says Quan. “We don’t have to pay the infrastructure cost for law firms, yet we are getting the expertise.” On average, the company uses between five to eight contract attorneys during busy times; several work at Applied regularly. Applied does sometimes use outside counsel. Still, not one of the 18 attorneys polled had a suggestion for improving life at Applied. One enthused that “the office dynamics are so good that I just want to commend the current setup.” All 18 said they would recommend working at Applied Materials to a friend — and several said they had.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.