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As senior vice president and general counsel of Net2000 Communications Inc., Lee Weiner will make sure to pull out all the stops to protect Net2000. But perhaps more important, he understands the value of avoiding litigation that might tax the resources of his relatively small employer. Accepting a job at Net2000? All new employees must sign a nonsolicitation and confidentiality agreement, prohibiting them from disclosing the company’s trade secrets. Acting as an independent contractor or consultant for Net2000? By contract, all intellectual property created while working in this capacity for the telecommunications service provider is work for hire, and Net2000 possesses all ownership interests. Licensing software to the company? Software vendors must warranty to Net2000 that they have the right to license the program. Net2000 also requires that the vendors sign an indemnification agreement, in case that right doesn’t actually exist. “We try to proactively anticipate issues and address them upfront,” explains Weiner. And Weiner’s approach has worked. “Fortunately, our litigation matters have been few and far between, and I hope to keep it that way,” he says. But there are those cases that require Net2000 to head to court. When that happens, Weiner knows what is best for his Herndon, Va.-based employer. “Our preference is to try to preserve our right to pursue litigation in the Eastern District of Virginia,” says Weiner. “We’re going to want to get it resolved in an expedited manner. We want to remain local — it’s going to be a lot more expensive for us to travel.” In order to try to guarantee that Net2000 ends up in the Eastern District, Weiner and his legal department often seek to have the court listed as the preferred forum for disputes in its agreements with vendors and other companies. If the particular business relationship would be better suited for arbitration, then Weiner also tries to get that inserted into an agreement. “There’s a lot of feeling out there that arbitration is quicker,” says Weiner. “I have personally found that arbitration is quicker.” And, even with all these safeguards, when it comes time to go to court or into arbitration, Weiner is not afraid to make a surprising or decisive move. “There was a recent case, where for strategic reasons, we went ahead and filed in two jurisdictions, and then alerted the company,” recalls Weiner. “We didn’t want the company to run into court and seek a declaratory judgment in a court that was hostile and inconvenient for us.” The case ended up settling, as do many of Net2000′s suits. “Both companies generally lose if it goes to litigation,” says Weiner. “If you’re going to the point of a trial, you’ve already lost something in terms of time, expenses, and resources. This applies to arbitration as well.” But preventing litigation is hard work, and Net2000′s freedom from protracted litigation does not mean that Weiner and the other in-house counsel get much rest. “My job, in many respects, is all-consuming,” says Weiner, who must deal with the “inherent struggle” between his employment and his family. Having been involved in telecommunications and high technology for the past 20 years, Weiner is not new to this hectic pace. He joined MCI’s legal department near the time of the AT&T divestiture. Some eight years later, he moved over to LCI International Inc. He spent four years as LCI’s general counsel, leaving for Net2000 after LCI merged with Qwest Communications International Inc. Regardless of where he has worked, Weiner feels that neither he nor his specialty can be pigeonholed. Calling IP law an amorphous term, Weiner says, “A lot of people say I’m an IP attorney, and I always get a chuckle out of that. IP attorney, that term, pervades so many areas. … The definition of IP law has been expanded and continues to expand.”

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