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It has been quite a year for in-house lawyers as they’ve worked to navigate fast-changing legal and regulatory frameworks, as well as seismic shifts in the legal industry itself. In-house legal leaders this year also took the lead on social issues such as diversity, and in some cases, called out wrongdoing within their own companies.

And they had plenty to say about these issues and challenges. Here are some of the most intriguing quotes Corporate Counsel heard out of legal departments in 2017:


“What I see is this frustration, with people who say: ‘Oh my God, there are all these regulators and every time I want to do an international deal, you now have to get clearance from 35 competition law authorities around the world.’ I mean, tough. Grow up and get it done. That’s kind of the world of competition.” —Alex Dimitrief, senior vice president and general counsel of General Electric Co., on those who grumble about global regulations.

“We have this vision of being able to have seamless, cross-border commerce and information flows for everybody in the world, but that’s actually a lot easier to do physically and electronically than it is to do legally because you have different languages, different cultures, different consumer protection regulations, different trade regulations. You know, there’s no silver bullet to a lot of that. You have to figure that out country by country, product category by product category.” —David Zapolsky, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of Amazon.com Inc. on doing business across the globe.

“While large clients spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours a year working with their law firms, firm leaders are making structural, growth, technology, and market-entry decisions that turn on assumptions about what clients want. We believe that, working together, we can provide a helpful road map, suggesting which practices and innovations lead to positive results and strong relationships. Through better information, we hope to move the profession forward.” —An open letter from 25 general counsel working with AdvanceLaw to collect data on the relationship between law firms and legal departments.  

“It took me over two years to find a job. And do I have anything near the potential to get another job on the level I had? Of course not. I have $300,000 in law school debt, and this is what I have to show for it.” —Ashley Yablon, former general counsel of telecom company ZTE USA on his life after blowing the whistle on the company over illegal trade with Iran.

“In order to emphasize the business imperative to make meaningful strides in diversity among our law firm partners, HP has implemented a ‘diversity holdback’ mandate. With this we can withhold up to 10% of all amounts invoiced by law firms that do not meet or exceed our minimal diverse staffing requirements. … I am counting on your courage and vision to support both the letter and spirit of the ‘diversity holdback’ provision. We hope it will serve as a meaningful tool to improve diversity in our organizations and on our working teams.” —Kim Rivera, chief legal officer and general counsel of HP Inc. in a letter explaining the company’s plan to withhold fees from law firms that don’t meet diversity requirements.

“He’s gagged a number of those victims who were brave enough to come forward. But I’m not gagged, and I’m their voice. I continue to speak for them.” —Minakshi “Micki” Jafa-Bodden, former legal adviser to Bikram Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury, on her ex boss. Choudhury is accused of egregious misconduct against numerous women, including Jafa-Bodden.

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