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Corporate Counsel Connect collection

February 2015 edition

Three resolutions for in-house counsel for 2015

William Peacock, FindLaw

2015It's that time of the year again: the time you'll make promises that you hope to follow through on, but likely won't. Still, it's an important ritual because it at least gives you the chance to set goals and evaluate your priorities – even if you never get around to completing them.

What areas do in-house attorneys need to focus on? Data security is a painfully obvious place to start. Human resources policies could also use a "refine and shine" after another year of NLRB decisions shifting the landscape against employers. And finally, as is the case every year, you'll want to check up on outside counsel.

3. Perform a data security audit.

One word: Sony. And rumors are growing that it may have been an inside job rather than the previous rumor de jour of an angry North Korean government.

Regardless, experts agree on one thing: Sony's data security was flawed. And now, not only has it cost the company in terms of reputation, embarrassment, and at least one sunk film, but Sony is also being sued by people whose data was leaked in the breach, including former employees who say that the company mismanaged sensitive data, like health care information, reports CNET.

Sony saw the biggest breach, but it was far from the only one of the year. Have we already forgotten about the Target, eBay, and Home Depot debacles?

2. Get cozy with NLRB decisions.

Last year was the year when the NLRB attacked social media policies in the name of protected Section 7 speech about workplace conditions. This year, the Board broadened its attack on employers. Here are a few recent posts for you to catch up on the trend:

OK, that's quite the list to catch up on, but here are the broad strokes:

The NLRB is trying to expand joint employer liability to franchise-modeled businesses (think fast food).

It has continued its fetishization of Section 7 speech with a ton of rulings protecting off-duty access to property, nixing workplace conduct, workplace gossip, and social media policies that don't have exceptions for Section 7 speech, and in a rare case that went the other way, let employees who were venting (and plotting) online get fired. And it has made a handful of pro-union rulings, plus it tweaked the election rules for Representation-Case procedures.

1. Audit outside counsel.

We reminded you about this last year, and we'll continue to do so: Audit outside counsel at least annually. Are you being rate-jacked? Have you looked into alternative fee arrangements? What about using a smaller firm or trying out one of the new startups that offers piecemeal temporary outside counsel services at a discount? Can you move some of the regularly occurring outside work in house at a discount?