Tag Archives: general counsel

Organizational Changes at the NLRB – Employment Law This Week

Featured on Employment Law This Week: Organizational Changes at the NLRB

General Counsel Peter Robb could be signaling a shift at the NLRB – Robb has  reportedly suggested structural changes that could establish a new layer of management between the General Counsel and the field. These reports come as the NLRB seeks to adjust to cuts to its budget and a decline in case filings. If implemented, the changes could remove authority from the Regional Directors and shift more decision-making to the GC. Sources report that some changes are likely before the new budget year next October.

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ILN Today Post

Mitigating the risk of AI in the legal process

We have partnered with C5 Communications who recently sat down with Kurt Rowe, Insurance, Market Affairs, Technology and Emerging Risks at Weightmans, to discuss how to mitigate the risk of using artificial intelligence in the legal process.

Kurt joined Weightmans in April 2014 following a 15-year career with a major leading insurer. Kurt is a member of the Market Affairs Group with particular oversight of the insurance market, technological developments and emerging risks 

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Things to Come at the NLRB: The General Counsel’s Plans

On March 26, the General Counsel (“GC”) of the NLRB signaled that he will be asking the Board to overturn or modify many precedents that negatively impact unions when it comes to organizing and collective bargaining. In Memorandum GC 16-01 (“GC Memo”), the GC directed the Regional Directors in the Board’s offices across the country, who are charged with investigating unfair labor practice (“ULP”) charges and deciding which cases to take to trial, to forward all charges involving issues identified in the GC Memo to the GC’s Division of Advice (“Advice”). It is clear that Advice will instruct the Regional Directors to issue complaints and to follow legal theories advanced by Advice as part of this coordinated effort.

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NLRB May Make It Harder for Employees to Decertify Unions

Our colleague Steven M. Swirsky, a Member of the Firm at Epstein Becker Green, has a post on the Management Memo blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the technology industry: “NLRB Looks to Make It Harder for Employees to Decertify Unions.”

Following is an excerpt:

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr., has announced in a newly issued Memorandum Regional Directors in the agency’s offices across the country that he is seeking a change in law that would make it much more difficult for employees who no longer wish to be represented by a union to do so.  Under long standing case law, an employer has had the right to unilaterally withdraw recognition from a union when there is objective evidence that a majority of the employees in a bargaining unit no longer want the union to represent them. …

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NLRB Argues “Misclassification” of Independent Contractors Is Unfair Labor Practice

Our colleague Steven M. Swirsky, a Member of the Firm at Epstein Becker Green, has a post on the Management Memo blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the hospitality industry: “NLRB Argues ‘Misclassification’ as an Independent Contractor Is Unfair Labor Practice.”

Following is an excerpt:

In a further incursion into the area of the gig and new age economy, the Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board’s Los Angeles office has issued an unfair labor practice complaint alleging that it is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) for an employer to misclassify an employee as an independent contractor. …

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NLRB Argues “Misclassification” as an Independent Contractor is Unfair Labor Practice

Steven M. Swirsky

In a further incursion into the area of the gig and new age economy, the Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board’s Los Angeles office has issued an unfair labor practice complaint alleging that it is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) for an employer to misclassify an employee as an independent contractor.

The Complaint, which is based on a charge filed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, through its’ Justice For Port Truck Drivers  campaign, asserts that Intermodal Bridge Transport (“IBT”) “has misclassified its employee drivers as independent contractors, thereby inhibiting them from engaging in Section 7 activity and depriving them of the protections of the Act. The theory behind the ULP charge and complaint is that the Act gives employees the right to unionize and engage in other protected, concerted activity, and that if an employer misclassifies a worker as an independent contractor, it unlawfully deprives the worker of those rights.

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“What is Stopping Our Teams From Changing?” In-House Counsel Ask at LMA Tech Conference

iStock_000018170510XSmallIf you’re a regular reader of Zen, you’ll know that I love in-house counsel panels.

During the recent Legal Marketing Association’s Technology Conference, we had one of the best in-house counsel panels I’ve seen. Moderated by Wicker Park Group’s Nat Slavin, the panel consisted of:

Lest we return to the office and tell our lawyers that we needed to change our strategy based on what one panelist said during the session, Nat gave a great disclaimer to start, reminding us that it’s still “one size fits one” when it comes to clients. So I share that with you here as well.

That being said, we do still hear a lot of the same themes and ideas, many of which boil down to the point that you need to know your clients and communicate with them regularly and effectively to find out what works best for them and what it is THEY want. 

So what DO clients want?

Olivia Pope.

For the non-Scandal watchers in the crowd, Olivia Pope’s trademark phrase is “It’s handled.” She’s the Washington fixer who comes in to deal with all the problems that her clients have, and to make them go away. And that’s what your in-house counsel want from you – the consummate fixer of problems.

This being a technology conference, and panel, there were some things that showed the impact that technology has on all of us (in some cases, specifically these panelists, but in others, on companies in general). The first of these is response time:

Responding within 24 hours is the low bar.”

It used to be that law firms and lawyers could brag if they responded to their clients within 24 hours, but that’s now that minimum. Clients expect you to be getting back to them much faster – you don’t always have to have their problem solved, or have the answers to their questions, but you have to at least respond and let them know that you’re working on it for them. In-house counsel have smart phones, and they know you have smart phones, where you can check your email from anywhere at any time (and respond). So they’re expecting you to do so.

Relationships are still the most important, but technology makes in-house counsel expect things to happen faster. It’s not that in-house counsel don’t want you to have a life – they just want to know that you’ve gotten their emails and will respond. And they want to know that you’ll be there to bail them out when there’s a real emergency.

They don’t want to read analysis from you; they want you to solve their problem. The panelists said that they want the quick and dirty answers in hours. If it’s more complicated, it’s okay if it takes longer, as long as you’ve acknowledged receipt of the email first. And in turn, they promise no fire drills.

The biggest thing I deal with now is not even getting the acknowledgement email.”

The in-house counsel panelists also stressed the importance of social media. They’re using it to:

  • Check wins/losses
  • Who is connected to whom on LinkedIn
  • Whether they’re really qualified
  • How outside counsel use social media

It’s now standard practice, said the panelists, to look at LinkedIn to research outside counsel. And if your profile is missing online, you’re not relevant.

But it’s not all just about the new-fangled technology – more typical law firm marketing materials have their place too. Client alerts are useful not only in the moment that firms are sending them, but also because they stay online forever. They can help in-house counsel decide whether that’s the kind of legal advice that they’d like to receive by their tone and the way they deliver their message.

In a world of ‘volume and noise’ content can help in-house counsel identify who they want to work with.”

The panelists also echoed something we’ve heard from a lot of in-house counsel, that being a great lawyer is just a gating issue now. It seems that more lawyers and law firms are understanding this, but the difference is that we didn’t used to hear about using technology to drive efficiency and to improve the attorney-client relationship like we are now. Not surprisingly, in-house counsel are looking to drive value, create efficiency and save money. What kinds of technology are they using to do this?

  • eBilling
  • RFP software
  • Workflow technology
  • Electronic signatures
  • Viewabill

Clients may be on board with these technologies, but many firms are still lagging behind, and this is incredibly frustrating to in-house counsel. They want to know:

How can we still be having the same conversations? We’re still circling back about the same topics – what is stopping our teams from changing?”

Electronic signatures are a perfect example of this, said panelists.

The face that law firms are still sending me printed out pieces of paper to sign sh!t, that’s crazy!”

Some companies are entirely paperless, and don’t even have anywhere to store paper, so they find having to sign documents in 2015 entirely mind boggling. Two out of the four panelists didn’t have scanners at the office, and couldn’t sign something and scan it to send it back if they wanted to.

By not using [electronic signature] technology, you are leaving money on the table.”

They’re also using other technologies that they want their firms to either understand or get on board with.

If you don’t know what Slack is, now is the time to get onto it. And don’t fight me on Serengeti. Whatever you do to make it more difficult for me to get my bills processed makes it more likely that you’re going to be ‘bye Felicia!’”

Even if you can’t get on board with some of these technologies, you have to at least understand how they work.

The panelists challenge law firms to step up and innovate – they’re frustrated with outdated law firm practices. Things like using “FYI” as the subject line of an email is useless because they get so many emails, and it doesn’t tell them anything.

Nat surveyed the room to see how many firms are using Viewabill, and nobody raised their hands – it was really surprising to him, and a great opportunity for those in the room. Viewabill allows clients to tap into the firm’s billing system to see their matters in real time. It reduces the delay time between the work and entering the time, and the panelists love it. It also allows clients to track their budgets.

Most decisions are driven by data now. Business is data driven. Legal cannot be the exception to that rule.”

That’s where something like Viewabill can help both firms and clients. The panelists also admitted that while firms may think accrual day is painful for them, it’s also painful for in-house counsel. It’s important to note that:

If you’re off, and I’m off, eventually the decision of whether to do business with you will be taken out of my hands.”

As important as technology is, though, the panelists still agreed that you can’t hide behind it – outside counsel still need to form real relationships with their in-house counsel.

If they know how you look, it’s harder for them to fire you.”

Before the panelists wrapped up, we got some final pieces of advice from them:

  • “Make my business personal to you. Don’t send me general sh!t.”
  • Add value while keeping spend as low as possible.
  • Counsel will take the cheaper deal if it’s “good enough.” “If you’re charging $1200, you’d better be a superstar.”
  • You need a feedback loop – all of these are starting points for a conversation.
  • 8 out of 10 emails could have recommendations and action items at the top (and don’t). Do that.
  • Have empathy for your clients – put yourself in their shoes. What would you need to do their job well?
  • Ask for feedback on how you’re doing as a lawyer/firm and be proactive about it. Give them feedback too – the in-house counsel on the panel said they like getting feedback.
  • What you want is a long, sustainable relationship with your clients. So think of it as a partnership.

Another excellent in-house counsel panel, with some great food for thought. Where can you improve the communication with your clients to ensure that you’re not missing the mark with them? If they were on a similar panel, would they be saying these things about you?

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How We Buy What You Sell – and How That’s Changing – A Recap

I’m still recovering from the whirlwind that was #LMA15 – it’s always a festival of education, networking, mentorship, relationship-building, thought leadership, and having amazing, thought-provoking conversations about our industry and where its headed. And I love every minute of it.

But one of my favorite parts, as you know, is the general counsel panel.  This year’s panel was focused on “How we buy what you sell – and how that’s changing.” I had the pleasure of speaking with two of the three panelists in advance of the session, Joe Otterstetter of 3M and Virginia Sanzone of CareFusion, and their comments during the session were very much in line with our conversations. 

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Outside Firms are More and More Becoming an Extension of In-House Law Departments

On Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with another of the panelists for Wednesday’s General Counsel Panel here at the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference. Joseph Otterstetter is the Managing Counsel and Associate General Counsel with 3M.  The position was a new one created two and a half years ago, with Otterstetter acting as a type of “Chief of Staff” for the legal department. He overseas a range of areas, including budget, human resources, and operations, and works with the General Counsel and leadership to run the department.

I started off by observing that in Otterstetter’s LinkedIn biography, he indicates that he was appointed to lead the efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness of 3M legal affairs. I asked him to comment on how he’s been focused on accomplishing that. 

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"Relationships Matter, But Not if We Can’t Afford Them" An Interview with Operations Lead, Dan Baker

We’re about an hour away from Viewabill’s two-hour webinar today on the topic of improving the attorney-client relationship! On Friday, I shared an interview I had done with Casey Flaherty of Kia Motors. I also had the pleasure of speaking with another of the panelists, Dan Baker, who is the Senior Operations Lead for LinkedIn Legal.

Dan’s role at LinkedIn runs the gamut – he described his day as always moving the needle forward on a myriad of projects, from their pro bono program, career leveling, managing contracts, requisitioning, planning/forecasting, event planning, goal setting and tracking, spend reporting, liaising with others, budgeting, knowledge management, engaging firms, and much, much more. 

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