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Inside Track: Adding Responsibilities to the Top Legal Role. Plus, Interns Experience In-House Life.

Welcome back to Inside Track!

The responsibilities of the general counsel and the chief legal officer are increasing. Last year I spoke to several general counsels who saw their roles expand out of just legal. And that has not changed and, as companies are cutting costs, more responsibilities are being put on legal leaders. This week we learned the top lawyers at WeWork and Houston Rockets will have expanded roles.

Rafael Stone, who was made general counsel of the NBA Rockets in 2005, will be the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations. Jennifer Berrent, the chief legal officer of WeWork, will keep her role while forfeiting the chief operating officer title to become co-president.

Some in-house counsel are using their legal knowledge to opt for a business role. Also this week, Major League Soccer announced its general counsel, Bill Ordower, will give up the legal title to assume the newly created role of executive vice president of MLS Business Ventures. Anastasia Danias Schmidt, a longtime NFL lawyer, will become general counsel for MLS next month.

The role of the general counsel has become more business-oriented. The lawyers who held additional roles to their legal one said the modern general counsel needs to think like a CEO.

What responsibilities outside of the legal department do you have? Let me know by emailing me at Dclark@alm.com.

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What’s Happening



From the Company to the Firm

As the academic year comes to a close, many law students will be participating in summer internships to boost their resumes. Law.com reporter Caroline Spiezio found the legal departments at AT&T, Morgan Stanley and Trinity Industries will be teaming up with Akin Gump to provide a split internship for law students of underrepresented backgrounds.

The interns will spend the first part of the summer in those legal departments and the second part at the firm.

“We were seeing a tremendous amount of our clients who were as committed to diversity and inclusion efforts as we were,” Akin Gump firmwide hiring partner David Botter told Caroline. “We said, ‘Hey this is perfect, why don’t we make the first-year program a program where students can spend some time at our law firm but also work with some of our equally committed clients and get a really well rounded experience.”

The students in the program will also receive Akin Gump’s second-year summer associate program and will receive $25,000 each in a law school scholarship.

Keeping Hairstyles In Mind


With many legal departments and law firms looking to become more diverse, employers should also note there are more laws prohibiting companies from discriminating against employee hairstyles linked to ethnic, racial or cultural identities. Below are some key takeaways Law.com reporter MP McQueen gleaned from employment lawyers.

▶ Be aware of the lawsOgletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart shareholder Michael Nader said California law makes it difficult to have a grooming rule that does not come off as discriminatory. He said that may spread to other states. “Companies should be aware of this development in harassment and discrimination law, as legislatures will likely pick up on this in other states. It is one of the new frontiers of civil rights laws,” Nader said.

▶ Training. Employers need to train managers to recognize workplace issues that are related to “traits historically associated with a particular race.” Nader said managers should be reminded to not make derogatory statements toward any hairstyle. He also said companies should be reinforcing their open-doorharassment policies to let employees know they have a safe place to air out their concerns about bad behavior.


What I’ve Been Reading

CNN reported earlier this week that Beyond Meat’s initial public offering may give the plant-based meat producer a $1.2 billion valuation. The company, which plans to start trading in May, said it could price shares between $19 and $21. The company believes over time the plant-based food market could be valued at $35 billion in the United States.

Bloomberg reported this week that Ancestry is also getting ready for an IPO as the DNA testing industry has taken off in the last couple of years. The report said industry sales have grown from $15 million in 2010 to $99 million in 2017. Sources told Bloomberg the company is planning its IPO for the second part of the year.

Digital Trends reported on Tuesday that startup Smartcar has sued rival company Otonomo over allegedly cloning its intellectual property. Smartcar said it didn’t just find a few similarities in its application programming interface with Otonomo but the interface was copied word for word and then placed in a public blog post.

Don’t Miss

Wednesday, May 1 – The General Counsel Forum will be hosting an event on Litigation Finance. Topics will include finding value with innovative deal structures, the uses of big data and navigating funding regulations in the U.S. Speakers will include Charles Schmerler,partner in the global litigation department of Norton Rose Fulbright; Alan Guy,managing director of Vannin Capital; and Peter Zimroth, head of NYU Law’s Center For Justice.

Tuesday, May 14 – Global Leaders in Law will be hosting a “What Keeps You Up At Night?” event in Dallas at Rosewood Mansion. On Tuesday, May 21, the group will be hosting an event on “The Global Trade Wars” in New York at Bar Boulud. GLL is an invitation-only membership group offering general counsel a global platform for in-person collaboration to exchange ideas and receive advice and guidance from peers. For more information, contact Meena Heath at mheath@alm.com.

Wednesday, May 29 – Washington Initiative For Diversity will be hosting the 2019 Legal Executives Diversity Summitat Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle from 1-6 p.m. This year’s summit will focus on best practices and the challenges in recruiting, retaining and promoting diverse candidates.

On The Move



Jennifer Newstead, a former state department adviser, has been named the new general counsel of the social media giant. She replaces Colin Stretch who announced last year he would be leaving the company.


David Phillips, who previously served as the tire company’s associate general counsel, was named the top lawyer on Tuesday. He replaces David Bialosky who worked as the top lawyer for Goodyear for the past 10 years Phillips will begin his role on June 4.


Janet Bawcom was named the general counsel and corporate secretary of the ingredient company. She previously worked at Dell as in-house counsel and replaces longtime general counsel Christine Castellano who resigned on Feb. 1.