Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Open Floor Policy

One of the things I really like about this media company is the work environment. Unlike my last job, where I was in a small office, we have an open floor plan here. The office is a large room with very high ceilings, and desks scattered around in clusters (plus the obligatory couches, coffee tables with turntables on them, and yes, ping-pong table). There are about 15 people at our location. It's big enough that I can safely tune out the code discussions of the software engineers, but I'm close enough to my GC that I can listen to her phone calls.

This is an enormous benefit to me - I learn so much about our company, about business development, and about negotiating the deals. Whenever we're working on an agreement and we have a question about customer service or technical integration, we walk across the room and ask the right person. Everyone is instantly accessible. It's probably distracting, but it also means people are kept on the same page and updated on changes. I absorb a lot about what other people are working on just by overhearing discussions, so I feel like I'm in the loop. It's much more of a cooperative environment, where the floor is always open.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Industry

When I interviewed for the position at this startup, one of the guys informed me that, if I didn't know already, the music industry is very old school. For example, he said, none of the industry attorneys will use the track changes feature to redline agreements. They mark them up by hand and have them emailed to you as a PDF. This seemed amazing to me, but believable. To be fair, I know older attorneys in the technology sector who still do that.

Sure enough, my experience has been of emailed PDFs with semi-legible question marks and brackets in the margins. Still, I didn't entirely understood what old school really meant, until I got an email from an industry attorney in LA. It was about a paragraph long, acknowledging receipt of our change requests (a proper redline).

At the bottom of the email below his name, it said: "Dictated but not read."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Progress with Reversals

I'm very happy to report that I secured a part-time gig at a very cool company. It's a media company that works with musicians - and I'm a big music person. I also really like that the GC (who I'm working under) is a woman. That's a special treat because it's rare, and because she's cool.

I was connected with this opportunity by one of the partners at my old firm, which has led to an odd situation. Where I was once a lowly associate under this partner, I'm now the client. I enjoyed working for him and genuinely like him, but I'm still adjusting to the transition. As an associate, my focus was to do exactly what he asked and to do it fast.

Now I have to ask him to do things!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Live Search

I'm working on registering a trademark for my client. I spent some time on the PTO website (where federal marks are registered) searching their database. It's not flashy, but it has several levels of advancing search capabilities, such as boolean, different fields, etc.

Then I went on the California Secretary of State website to search whether my client's name was registered in California. I spent some time there too, hunting for the database. Finally I called the phone number and navigated a few levels of menu items (press 4 > 4 > 0), wanting to ask where to find the database search on their website. A woman answered on the first ring, and politely asked me what trademark I wanted. I told her, I held for about 30 seconds, and she told me it wasn't registered.

There is no online database; that's how you search for a mark! I couldn't decide if I was horrified or charmed...

Friday, October 23, 2009


Time to share some observations and advice on the market. Caveat being that I don't know whether my own experiences are part of a trend (local or global? industry-specific?), or the product of my own luck-making.

- Salaried positions for entry-level attorneys are scarce and extremely competitive. I applied for an in-house transactions position, and saw that an attorney I know knew someone in HR. He agreed to send my resume in, but informed me that someone else had also asked him to do a resume-pass!

- I don't expect to hear back from any position to which I cold-apply. By cold I mean simply send in my resume and cover letter. The only way to have a chance is to go on LinkedIn, search the company name, and filter by my network (or shout-out on Facebook). If I find someone who's a 2nd degree connection to an employee, I ask if they'd mind forwarding my resume in. If I do that, my odds of being contacted have gone up by about 50-75%.

- There's contract work out there. Maybe the economy is ticking up, or maybe I've been lucky, but companies need help. They're being cautious and they don't want to commit to anyone, but they have work. (And when the economy relaxes, won't they think of you first?) The goal is to meet with attorneys and ask them be part of your army. Treat them right, don't let them forget you, and they will feed you when they hear about contract work.

- I'm actually about to retain my first paying client. The good part is that doing the work myself is an enormous educational experience - you learn so much more when you have to find the answers yourself. The bad part is that it's a little scary and lonely, having nobody to look up to. But I'm realizing that if I'm respectful, my network will mentor me through it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Happy Client

Yesterday the news was out - the Oracle acquisition was approved in the US. I don't think there will be any changes until the EU approves it.

In other news, I've discovered how to make every client happy: email them. Whenever I get a sweet email from a client, it's because I've been responsive. Even when I don't have any news, I send emails to let them know I haven't forgotten about them. And it makes sense, because it drives me a little crazy too when people don't get back to me. I've gotten some really heartfelt feedback from clients, and they always mention the responsiveness. When I took Ethics in law school, they noted that the single biggest complaint that leads to attorney discipline is failure to respond to emails and phone calls.

The other part of making a client happy is speed. I'm a goal-oriented person, which means I like to finish things. (I live by to-do lists.) I usually power through assignments quickly, and this has backfired a little. I do many product release due diligence projects - reviewing new products to ensure we have all our rights in a row - and although clients are instructed to give legal 30 days to do it, there are times when their release date is in 5 days. And I've gotten a reputation from the person in my group that assigns them as someone who can turn them around quickly. This is great, except that I seem to be getting quite a lot of the assignments that need to be turned around quickly! I don't mind too much; crunchtime performance makes the clients that much happier, and there's nothing like a happy client. As every list-maker knows, the best part is crossing things off.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Sun's Office of Career Planning

There are many odd things about being in an acquisition, not the least of which is having an enormous support system for job searching. It's also wonderful. I have an interview coming up, and I don't want to jinx myself so I won't say much - except that I'm so excited about the position and the company that I've barely slept for several nights.

The resources at Sun are amazing. I got advice from someone in HR about phone interviewing; my mentor gave me in-person interviewing tips and reviewed my resume; a coworker reviewed a relevant open source license with me. I've gotten several offers to be a reference.

I'm hard-pressed to think of another situation where this might occur. It's a little like leaving law school, I guess; except everyone is much better connected, and your professors are looking for jobs too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pocket Guide

In an epic quest to increase my knowledge, a bit ago I started scouring the earth for resources on drafting agreements. What I really wanted was a book that would review individual provisions and tell me what they meant. (Eg, What's the difference between perpetual and irrevocable?)

I got PLI podcasts on negotiation, and a two-volume collection on IP Licensing. The most valuable resource I've found so far, however, is a little book by a local SF attorney. It's The Tech Contracts Pocket Guide by David Tollen. It's about 122 substantive pages, which to an attorney is like a magazine. He writes it for business people too, so it's in plain English. It's focused on software licensing, but it does give insight on business contracts in general. For example, here's one section I really liked:

A perpetual license should survive the term of the contract, but it ends if someone terminates. An irrevocable license should survive any termination, but it ends when the term ends. And a license that is both perpetual and irrevocable should survive the term and any termination.

While reading it, I came to appreciate how much I've learned at Sun; all my underlining was in the footnotes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Red Lights

I've been repeatedly learning a lesson about working in-house: don't let your clients bully you. This is difficult because attorneys want to make their clients happy; even in-house, where your "clients" are other people at your company.

For example, I had a program manager (an engineer) insist that we have the rights to use this code in a new Solaris build. I had to dredge up the agreement and review it while fending off the barrage of emails telling me they needed this approval today because it was mission critical to a pending release. I was frantically emailing up the chain to get confirmation of our licensing rights, as the agreement the client provided wasn't a solid strike.

Finally I got on the phone with a senior attorney, who praised me for flagging it and calmed me down. She reminded me that if the release was delayed a day, it wasn't the end of the world. This isn't the first time I've gotten worked up because of clients trying to rush my approval. Part of it is inexperience - I assume that the clients must know better, because I haven't been here that long. There's a lot of pressure not to get in the way of a deal. But there's a balance between business and legal interests, and the reality is that sometimes, doing your job means being a roadblock.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Speaking Up

On Tuesday I gave a presentation to the VPs of all the legal groups at Sun. I've been working with Sun's Vendor Manager on a new program for engaging outside counsel. I did much of the nuts-and-bolts - rewrote the policy on our wiki, generated the roll-out email, etc. - but the Vendor Manager is usually the one presenting our progress. She was out of town at a conference, so she asked me to do it.

Before I went on, I felt a little nervous, but not too bad. (Presentations in law school are actually good practice.) But there was no getting around it - when I stood up there with my notes, my voice was shaking and it was a bit nerve-wracking. Still, I had rehearsed, and once I got a few slides in I felt comfortable and my knees quit knocking. The only thing to do is practice what you're going to say, so that when it comes to the real deal, you don't have to think too much.

I had one laugh line: Our new policy has 12 steps, and I said, "I assure you, that's purely coincidental..." I paused, and got a chuckle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


At work I've been updating our retention agreement for outside counsel. This led me to read some materials on legal drafting (specifically the work of Bryan Garner, familiar to many law students). I know it's geeky, but I find it extremely satisfying to edit contracts in this way. I cut down Sun's retention agreement by 2 pages! Same info, fewer words. And turning a giant, impenetrable paragraph into a second-person, outline-format provision? Exquisite.

My problem now is that once I started looking at agreements through that lens, it was really hard to turn it off. No agreement was safe - at work, for my fiance's company, etc. My fiance finally put his foot down when I begged him to let me redline the license agreement for our wedding venue.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On Oracle

I was on a call early this morning when Mike dropped by my office. Being on the phone, he wrote a message on my white board:


You'll recall that I bonded with Sun's GC because we both blog. He clarified later that some of the info revealed to us was bloggable, but some not. I'll stick to the bloggable...

The buzz here has been pretty positive - my own feelings, based purely on branding, is that Oracle is pretty cool. During the first of several meetings this morning, someone asked if Mike could tell us about Oracle's corporate culture. He didn't go into details, but he did say that when a company with 80K employees acquires a company with 30K employees, what results is a new culture.

My googling seems to reveal quite a bit of compatibility. We live in the same hood, for one, and Silicon Valley has a culture. Perhaps most tellingly, when I searched the Oracle network on Facebook, the first page of results gave me several people who were also part of another company's network because they were former employees: Sun Microsystems.
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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

An Open Door Policy

Being one of those people who are usually cold, I learned to keep my office door closed to trap in the heat emitted by my immense monitor. It worked; my office was toasty. I observed carefully and found that about 50% of people kept their doors closed, probably for the noise. (I also play Pandora all day at work on external speakers, and worried about the sound getting out.)

I kept my door closed, even though it did feel a bit isolating. Then I got a few comments from people - calling it my cave, my sauna, etc., so I decided to open up. It's more distracting because you hear people in the hall and you see them walking by. People do drop in more often, but that's important when you're new at a workplace. An open door is a worthwhile distraction - yesterday Mike popped his head in to praise some work I did.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I came very close to being on a jury. I was summoned, and when I checked online, my group had to report. This is the third time in as many years that I've been summoned - the other end of California's massive prison system, I suppose. But I never had to show up before!

It was actually pretty fascinating, even aside from the legal angle that would naturally interest me. There were about 40 of us in the jury room, with 24 in the hot seats - the jury box. It's odd to hear people answer really personal questions in front of 40 strangers. We heard the stories about being assaulted, being threatened by a boyfriend (a few), getting DUIs and possession charges in the 1970s (several), having their car broken into (many). Hearing things that these people's friends probably don't know, like that their brother has been arrested twice. It really humanized everyone, knowing what they were walking around with inside their memories.

It truly was diverse, people just out of college and people in their 70s, African American, Asian, Indian, Scandinavian (?). There was a woman who worked at Jack-and-the-Box, a Deputy District Attorney (excused by the defendant), a writer from Mother Jones.

While I wasn't looking forward to taking the time off from work, I was a little disappointed when they got their 12 before I was questioned.

The New TLA (Three Letter Acronym)

It was a little surreal: I was about one mile into my commute to work two weeks ago, listening to NPR the way I do every morning. "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that IBM may be in talks to acquire Sun Microsystems." I managed to maintain control of my vehicle, but it was extraordinarily shocking. With a company as big as Sun, it's not exactly an anticipated possibility.

Naturally everything at work was airtight - no superior was making any comment - except for the chatter around the water cooler, of course, which was bubbling. In the kitchen, the 4 daily newspapers were carefully fanned out, all turned to the IBM news. I slipped into the offices of the Corporate Law folks across the hall from me, but they were sealed up too. All they could do was tell me that in their experience, the merger of two enormous companies could take anywhere from 9-12 months. (There are plenty of antitrust issues too.)

But it's been about 2 weeks, and things have quieted. We were told to keep our heads down, and mostly we are, because what else can you do? I feel a great sense of equanimity. I'm a contractor, after all, so my job security isn't established. And I've been laid off once, and survived it. What more can they do to me? Meanwhile, I couldn't help but wonder how many times in my career I could experience such a mega-merger firsthand. I feel calm enough to be interested in watching it unfold.

Friday, March 06, 2009


At the firm, I was repping tiny startup companies and clutching at the skirt of BigCo, pleading for provisions. Now I am BigCo. (Might as well come out with it: Sun Microsystems.) It's taken some getting used to; I'm still learning to say No in negotiations, and that sometimes it's okay to have residuals in an NDA.

Some other things I've had to adjust to:

* The lawyers I work with have time. They use this time to explain things to me, such as two hour training sessions on drafting software license agreements.
* Dressing casually to work really means casual, not business casual. Tie-dyed shirts, light-colored jeans, etc.
* Communicating with your clients is tricky when they're in India, or South Africa, or Europe. At first I found it unsettling, but then I adjusted to the 18 hour delay in emails.
* 1 in 4 Sun employees works from home on a given day (or so I've heard). This meant getting used to calling people rather than dropping in to their office. That's actually something I miss a lot about the firm.
* Staff meetings have 50% of the people calling in, many of them from outside the country. This translates to some time wasted on technical difficulties - yes, even at an technology company.
*On many nights, at around 6 PM, the strangest thing happens: everyone goes home.

PS: I was kindly cited as an entertaining law blog on this site for paralegals.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


During my period of unemployment, I went to a party one night where I met a bunch of new people. In conversation, I struggled a bit when they asked me what I did - not wanting to spill out my sob story and all that. But after a few people I had an epiphany, and said, with real comfort, "I'm an attorney." It's nice knowing that no matter where I go or what I'm doing, I'm still that.

So my first week at work. The training has been extensive; learning the acronyms alone could be a career path. I'm really, really excited about a 40-page manual they gave me. It's the playbook for one of our most frequently negotiated agreements. It breaks down the agreement line by line, and explains the legal significance of it, where we can make changes, what those changes mean, why we push back, alternative language if they push back, what to say when they push back. You get the point. I can't describe how awesome I think that is! I always wished for something like that at the firm. At the firm it was like trying to learn a language as an adult without taking any classes. They drop you in and you pick it up where you can.

When I described this to a friend of mine, he said, "Oh! Just like what telemarketers use!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I've been meeting with some attorneys (friends of friends) to talk about the industry. One of them is at a big corporate law firm, and he knew I had a blog. (He informed me that he writes Blogging Policies for his clients, and that he was coming around to the belief that an employee's blog posts should be attributed to the company for Securities law purposes.)

He asked me at one point, wasn't I mad at my law firm for doing this to me? It's odd, but that question upset me a little. I'm not mad. What's the point? Having that anger inside me would only be hurting myself. When I let myself get heated up about it, it does hurt. It hurts me, not them. Somehow his assumption that I'd be pissed made me wonder if I was naive for not being angry.

As we shook hands, he added, "You're not going to attribute what I say to my law firm on your blog, are you?"

I wouldn't dream of it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Birthday Present

So, good news! I've been hired, though it's not a salaried position. It's a contract position, but it's for a very big, very badass software/hardware company. I'm not going to name it, but if you've read this blog the following will probably let you figure it out. Nevertheless, I have to give credit where credit is due.

I met the in-house counsel of this company while I was in law school. We connected on LinkedIn, and my blog link is on my LinkedIn profile. As it happens, this person was also a blogger, so we stayed in touch. People are always talking about whether blogging pays. My answer is that it can be a networking tool.

Anyway I'm pretty excited. They told me I'm free to keep looking for something more permanent, but when I asked they said it wasn't impossible for a contract attorney to get hired in...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Privacy Tweaking

I went to the first Tech Policy Summit of the year on Tuesday, a talk about privacy sponsored by Facebook. The speakers were my supervisor Jim Dempsey of CDT, Chris Hoofnagle of the Berkeley Law and Technology Center, and Chris Kelly, CPO of Facebook.

I was especially interested when Kelly talked about how many users tweak their privacy settings. I think Facebook's privacy settings are fantastic, very finely grained; they should be market. But I'm not exactly the average user, so I've often wondered if other people utilize it.

Kelly reported that they'd run a survey and found that about 25-30% of the general population tweaks their settings. Interestingly, he noted that approximately 60% of teen users change their settings! (I direct a stern look towards those claiming young people don't care about privacy.) Is it perhaps because teens are more savvy?

In attendance was California PUC Commissioner Rachelle Chong, who offered this with a shrug: "They change their privacy settings to avoid their parents."

Of course.