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The following discussion thread excerpt is from an ongoing law.com online seminar “Breaking In and Making It In-House” moderated by Terence N. Church of Cisco Systems, Inc. For information on this program and other law.com seminar offerings, please visit http://www.law.com/seminars. TERENCE N. CHURCH, MANAGING ATTORNEY, LICENSING GROUP, CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., SAN JOSE, CALIF. How do companies approach filling an in-house job? Do they rely on recruiters? How can you find an in-house position? How do you network effectively? How does a candidate negotiate a compensation package? Wow, talk about the kitchen sink … ! In my experience, companies fill jobs by placing ads in publications and on-line. They also rely on word of mouth and contacting people for leads. Professional recruiters are helpful, but I have never seen a company rely on them to the exclusion of other resources. Recruiters are expensive and add a premium to the hiring process. What might have been a signing bonus for the new hire might wind up going to the recruiter instead. The best way to find an in-house job is to network, network, check ads and then network. Tell people you are looking. More importantly, tell them specifically what you are looking for. If you tell someone you are looking for an in-house position, it will go in one ear and out the other. If you say you are looking for a licensing position in a hi-tech firm, they will more likely remember that and pass it on when they hear of such a position. Contact the legal department directly. I applied for a advertised job once and sent my resume to the address in the ad as they instructed. Having had no response, I followed up with a call to the GC a couple of weeks later. I was told by his admin that the mailed resume went to HR, but that if faxed, it would go directly to the GC’s office. I faxed it and was offered a job within the week. Lesson learned. Did I mention networking? Get involved in legal organizations. In my view — of course I am biased — the best is ACCA (American Corporate Counsel Association). It is a national — indeed international with chapters in England and Canada — organization open exclusively to in-house counsel. Check their web site at www.acca.com. They have a job posting page. Also the local chapters are very active and an ideal networking forum. Local bar associations and other legal organizations are also good. You might also try attending meetings and getting involved in local chamber of commerce activities. While most CC functions cater to small businesses, you never know when you might run into someone who feels they need a dedicated lawyer. Salary negotiation is tricky. I have never been very good at it, which is why I am not posting this from an island in the South Pacific somewhere. I would be interested in others’ experiences in this area. I have heard both that the best chance to establish your value in a company is at the beginning and that you should not be greedy at the beginning because you will have plenty of opportunity for reward later on. Stock options complicate matters. They are a big risk, but also present the prospect of a huge upside. Don’t forget to consider the tax aspects of stock options. And it is important to understand the bonus structure. I am looking forward to comments on this issue. LILLIE STEPHENS, VICE PRESIDENT OF LEGAL AND BUSINESS AFFAIRS AND GENERAL COUNSEL, BEBE , BRISBANE, CALIF. For a lawyer working in a law firm, the best source of potential in-house opportunities is his/her client list. During the natural process of learning about clients’ businesses in an advisory position, a great deal can be discerned. What is the client’s business model? Does it seem sound to you? Do you like what products/services they are offering? How strong is their management team? If it is a start-up, who is backing it? Name brand VCs? Are the members of management receptive to legal advice or do they just want their documents? How do they respond to lawsuits or allegations of wrongdoing? Is it in line with your approach? You should be able to assess the company’s viability and whether it is a good match for you from your interactions with them. I had the great fortune of advising my current employer as its outside counsel. During its IPO process, I digested all of the company’s history, performance and vision and liked what I saw. I also was able to see how its management acted and interacted in times of stress; a perspective not normally seen during interviews. As for negotiating compensation packages, start by gathering as much information you can. There are many ways of assessing what the position is worth. In addition to the basic market rate comparisons, I recommend considering at least the following three: 1. How much would the company be saving by having you in house? Keep this train of thought in mind: If law firm salaries are going up, legal fees will naturally rise as well (firms want to remain profitable, yes?). If legal fees are rising, companies grow more conscious of their legal bills and start to consider if hiring in-house attorneys would be more cost effective. In order for bringing attorneys in-house to be more cost-effective, companies must pay less than what they are paying the increasingly expensive outside lawyers. What is the “sweet spot” where the company is spending less and getting more? This will vary from company to company depending on their legal needs and their current outside attorneys. 2. How much responsibility does the job demand? Don’t be fooled by the allure of working less hours while in-house. While that may or may not be the case, the responsibility level (and therefore the stress level) may bear more on you than the number of hours you log. If you are the sole attorney or chief legal officer, how much is the weight of all of the company’s liability resting on your shoulders worth to you? 3. What do the other officers in the company get paid? While your law firm rate or industry market rate may be, say, $300,000, if the CFO makes $100,000 or $500,000, where does that leave you? Obviously this information is harder to get for privately held companies. As for networking, I second Terry’s support of ACCA and recommend using current friends and contacts as sources of leads. It is also a good idea to remain on good terms with headhunters. While I agree with Terry that most companies do not want to pay the “bounty” fees charged by headhunters, there are times when headhunters can find positions that might not be posted in other places. In addition, if you sell yourself to a reputable headhunter, s/he will be an advocate for you and may help you get the job. MICHELLE COTTON, LEGAL SEARCH CONSULTANT, SPHERION LEGAL GROUP, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. A quick note regarding the use of headhunters for in-house positions. I have worked with many candidates who have applied for a position at a large company (usually on the internet in response to an online job advertisement) and never hear from anyone regarding their candidacy. In this regard, headhunters can be very useful. We usually work directly with the GC or VP of the legal department that is looking, and therefore our candidates’ resumes get routed directly to the hiring attorney. Large companies can get hundreds of resumes for one legal position, and by using a headhunter, you can be sure that your resume is at least seen by the person who has the need. Resumes submitted to online advertisements on company web sites usually get routed to an internal recruiter, who may also be recruiting for engineering, HR, and other positions in addition to legal ones. Using a headhunter usually has more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to obtaining an in-house position. We are able to get your resume to the right hiring attorney, and our candidates are usually given the time of day because we have pre-screened them for the company. We are expected to have relevant, appropriate candidates. If a company is using a recruiter, it is very seldom that the candidate loses leverage when negotiating salary or a signing bonus. Instead, companies view our services as well worth the money. We save them time in finding candidates, and they don’t penalize us or the candidate for it. Occasionally, you do get the employer who wants something for nothing. But in this market, candidates are the hot commodity and therefore recruiters become a necessary cost of doing business. CHERIE FUZZELL, GENERAL COUNSEL, NOVA CORPORATION, ATLANTA, GA. I agree with Terry. In my experience, companies turn to recruiters, ads, and networking (especially with outside counsel) when looking to fill an in-house position. The best way to find an in-house position is to check ads (both online and in legal publications, talk to multiple legal recruiters and network with others in the profession, letting them know the specific type of position you are looking for). As for salary negotiation, I believe that it’s best to avoid being greedy in the beginning. Once someone has proven their worth to an organization — by really learning the business and becoming a trusted advisor to internal clients — they will generally be rewarded through promotions, incentive compensation and or salary adjustments. I’m always a little suspicious of candidates who push too hard up front and in such a case, tend to look elsewhere. As for stock options and bonus structure, it’s important to understand historical frequency of stock option grants and typical grant amounts by organizational level. Vesting and forfeiture provisions are also important. It is also critical to understand historical bonus payments and criteria for payment. I’ve seen situations where lawyers accepted significant reductions in base salary, mistakenly thinking that bonuses and stock options would make up the difference. Although these incentives can provide tremendous upside, they are never a sure thing. MICHELLE COTTON, LEGAL SEARCH CONSULTANT, SPHERION LEGAL GROUP, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. I wanted to add a word of caution to those candidates interested in emerging companies that have a very small legal department or none at all. It has been my experience that many of these companies face difficulties in hiring the right kind of attorney for a variety of reasons. In most cases, the CFO is the first executive to feel the need for an in-house lawyer. CFO’s usually deal with the financing, stock and licensing issues (usually with the help of an outside law firm) if there is not an internal lawyer. Subsequently, it is the CFO who usually creates the job description for an attorney. While this satisfies his major needs, he may be unaware of future (and, usually, current) matters that the in-house attorney should be dealing with as well. Be sure that you explore what the company thinks its current legal needs are, and then do your own homework as to the legal needs the company will be facing in the near future. I have seen too many licensing attorneys go in-house only to find that they are also expected to handle employment, SEC and mergers/acquisition matters as well. You will be able to tell, with some very pointed questions, if the company really needs a generalist. Knowing your own limitations when pursuing the job will save both you and the company countless headaches down the road. Remember–the company is looking for ways to save money by hiring you. If you add to their outside counsel bills, they will have much more difficulty in seeing your value!

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