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Visit Nike Inc.’s Beaverton, Ore., headquarters at 4 a.m., as the deadline approaches to file 10-K and 10-Q reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Associate general counsel John Coburn III, the company’s only in-house securities lawyer, is likely to be in his office, reviewing documents, badly in need of sleep. It wasn’t always like this. In 1991 the sports-addicted attorney took a job that seemed to be the next best thing to being starting point guard for Portland’s Trailblazers. At Nike, the giant maker of athletic shoes and sports wear, the perks include generous vacation time, support for local teams (for every hour Coburn spends coaching his son’s Little League team, Nike donates money to the league), an opportunity to meet Nike spokesmen like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, and free Trailblazers tickets. Coburn joined a legal staff of six who served the needs of the company and its 5,300 employees. Twelve years later, Nike still offers these perks. But now the business is 23,000 employees strong. Its revenues have mushroomed from $3 billion to $11 billion. And it has signed seemingly every celebrity athlete to do promotions, cracked down on the counterfeit sneakers trade abroad, and begun — like all public companies — to grapple with the consequences of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance law. Despite this enormous growth one thing remains the same — Nike’s decision not to have a big in-house legal staff. “We try to keep the department lean, which pleases our CFO,” Coburn says. The bigger company and additional responsibilities mean that the lawyer and his now 18 colleagues are working longer and harder. Coburn says he’d like more in-house help. “Increase the number of business attorneys,” he wrote in response to a question in Corporate Counsel‘s 2003 Quality of Life survey, requesting the one change he’d make to his company’s law department. But even with the extra workload, Coburn, 41, says he’s not unhappy. In fact, he says he loves working at Nike, and adds, “I hope I’m here until I retire.” STILL SATISFIED For the past five years, Corporate Counsel has surveyed in-house lawyers about their on-the-job contentment. We’ve asked them about a broad range of workplace issues, from the interest level of their work, and perception of in-house lawyers in companies today, to their satisfaction with their outside counsel. This year, for the first time, respondents were permitted to answer anonymously on the magazine’s Web site; some of the 1,010 respondents, including Coburn, agreed to follow-up interviews. We also asked respondents to rate various aspects of their work life on a sliding scale, from “very poor” to “outstanding.” This year 71 percent rated their job satisfaction level as “outstanding” or “above average,” while 85 percent gave the same ratings to the interest level of their work. The responses to the 2003 survey show — as in previous years — that in-house life brings with it a high degree of satisfaction. The work is interesting; corporate counsel respect their law department colleagues and get along well with clients. But there’s one big exception to this generally happy picture. In an open-ended question, we asked whether life has gotten better or worse this past year. Nearly half of the attorneys participating in the survey responded that it was worse. The No. 1 reason they gave was overwork. Frederick Krebs, executive director of the recently renamed Association of Corporate Counsel, formerly the American Corporate Counsel Association, says he is not surprised by the complaints. He notes that his Washington, D.C., group’s polling of several thousand lawyers also shows that “stress points are showing up.” Still, Krebs emphasizes the good things that come with in-house life, such as teamwork and a close working relationship with clients. In fact, company lawyers in our survey responded that a large part of their job satisfaction came from the respect they get from their clients. Asked to choose the statement that best describes how corporate clients see their role in a company, 42 percent of in-house lawyers chose “my advice is sought and respected,” 28 percent opted for “I am part of the business team,” and 9 percent agreed that “I am a leading voice in determining strategy.” Besides respect from the business side, survey respondents said there’s a high degree of collegiality within the legal department. Seventy-four percent rated the relationships within their law departments as “above average” or “excellent,” compared to 77 percent last year, and 70 percent two years ago. MIDNIGHT OIL It’s a good thing everyone is getting along. Our 2003 survey indicates that in-house lawyers are spending more time in the office on nights and weekends. Bryan Dempsey, legal affairs director for Houston-based Tgs-Nopec Geophysical Co., for instance, works days, nights and weekends in the company’s Denver and Houston offices. As the sole lawyer at his 280-employee public company, whose geophysical projects for oil and gas companies involves operating in many international jurisdictions, Dempsey says he’s working harder than ever. Dempsey now works between three and 10 hours every weekend “catching up,” including overseeing compliance with the new Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. He says he rarely worked weekends until recently. As for vacations, Dempsey says he hasn’t taken one since 2000. He took five days off for the birth of his child and returned to find a 10-inch stack of deals to review. “I learned then that I just can’t put this stuff off,” he says. He says he is trying to hire a paralegal to help out. Concerns about heavy hours and light resources were prominent red lights on the part of this year’s survey that allowed lawyers to write in comments. In addition to the respondents who said life has gotten worse, 41 percent of the in-house lawyers who filled out the survey said they were working more hours this year. Thirty-six percent said budget constraints had a negative impact on their job performance, but only one-third of respondents said they were under pressure to pull more work in-house, as opposed to two-thirds last year. (We also queried corporate counsel about their relationships with outside counsel; see “ The Revolution Has Been Postponed“.) CAN THEY JUST SAY NO? Responding to heavier workloads, lawyers at some companies have performed triage. Jeffrey Carr, GC at Chicago-based FMC Technologies Inc., says that when he first reported for work in 1993, he was part of the legal department of the parent company FMC Corp., which had 40 in-house attorneys for 18,000 employees. FMC Technologies, with 8,500 employees, was spun off in 2001, and Carr is one of its eight lawyers. Consequently, he says, “we have had to reduce services.” Carr explains that his department doesn’t spend as much time reviewing every contract at the manufacturing company: “Now we try to educate managers on what they should be aware of [when drawing one up].” Another big change in the department is the lack of enthusiasm for nailing down every possible patent. “We only pursue patents that add value to the company,” Carr says. But at other businesses, lawyers simply can’t say no. As a result, they are altering their daily habits and routines. Nike’s Coburn says he no longer spends lunch hours working out in the corporation’s famed gym. In addition, he has started showing up at work on weekends, and sometimes arrives at the office at odd hours of the morning. “I don’t know whether I’m lucky or not to live 10 minutes away,” Coburn says. “Because sometimes I just stay here all night, go home, shower, change, and come right back.” This summer, Coburn reached a breaking point. Just plain tired, he bought a motor home, and took 10 weeks of accrued vacation to crisscross the continental United States with his family. The trip meant, of course, that the lawyers he left behind had to pick up the slack. “We undergo a lot of cross-training in preparation [for vacations],” he says. HOME, SWEET OFFICE Coburn can count himself lucky. Many in-house lawyers say they have no time for vacation. One of the most notable drops in this year’s survey came when we asked respondents to rate their employer’s attitude toward using vacation time. Last year, 84 percent said their company’s attitude was “above average” or “excellent.” This year, only 64 percent said the same thing. Also down were family leave benefits: A mere 47 percent rated their company’s attitude in the top two categories, “above average” or “outstanding”; in the previous year, 55 percent did. Vacations aside, daily life for in-house lawyers has become more stressful. And that’s ironic, given that in-house lawyers cite more personal time as a chief motivation for going in-house in the first place. Eighty-three percent of survey respondents said that a desire for a healthier balance between work and personal life was an important factor in deciding to work in-house. Of those, 83 percent said they have achieved it. eDiets.com Inc. general counsel Jennifer Lupo says she recently installed an office phone line in her home as the “only way to escape the office.” Lupo explains that work traditionally handled by outside counsel is being pulled in-house at the Deerfield, Fla.-based online diet-aid company, and she and her four law department colleagues are swamped. In fact, the time company lawyers spend at the office is approaching the time logged by law firm associates, according to comparisons between the 2003 Quality of Life survey and our sibling publication The American Lawyer‘s annual report on law firm midlevel associates. According to the results from both surveys, a plurality of respondents reported working 46-55 hours per week. But in-house lawyers say the number of hours isn’t what counts. “We can control our schedules better [than lawyers at law firms] because we are not called in at a moment’s notice,” says Richard Parr III, the general counsel of the Addison, Texas-based health maintenance organization Concentra Inc. “There’s some predictability here.” ROOM AT THE TOP? When it comes to one key aspect of job satisfaction — advancement — the findings are mixed. Just over a third of survey respondents rated advancement opportunities at their company as only average. At the same time, however, the findings show that the most corporate counsel count on sticking around in their current jobs, promotions or not. Remarkably, about half of the respondents in this year’s survey said they expected to be working at the same company in five years’ time. And despite all the gripes about their increased workload and department’s understaffing, 82 percent of in-house lawyers said they are not looking for another job. For all her pains, Lupo expects to be at eDiets for a while. “I would have to come across a great gem of a job to cause me to leave,” she says. “Are there bad moments here? Yes. Is there chaos? Yeah. Are there things I can do better? Sure. And are there things that frustrate me? Of course. But by and large, I’m pretty satisfied.” So is Nike’s Coburn. Returning to Oregon last summer, he put his motor home up for sale. Related chart: Staying Put, but Working Harder

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