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General Electric’s Jack Welch Changed Role of In-House Lawyers

March 3, 2020, 1:15 PM

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch Jr, who passed away Sunday at 84, helped remake not just the company, but also its legal department, according to those who worked under him.

Making Change: Welch helped empower his in-house lawyers and shook up a previously staid law department with new hires from major law firms and the government. He also gave the lawyers at the company more latitude to work with regulators to clean up corporate messes.

Power Shift: “Inside the company we became part of the management team, and outside the company we shifted power from the law firms to the law department,” said Benjamin Heineman Jr., who spent 16 years as GE’s general counsel. “That was due to Jack. He allowed me to hire an inside law firm, which changed the relationship for law firms outside the company.”

Brian Baxter has the story.

DAILY BRIEF

Law Firms

Paul Hastings Snaps Up Orrick Fintech Lawyer
Paul Hastings has brought aboard Christopher Austin, who had been global head of capital markets at Orrick and head of its blockchain and cryptocurrency working group, as a partner based in New York.

Sidley Austin Hires Kirkland’s Data Privacy Co-Leader
Sidley Austin has hired Brian Kavanaugh, the former co-leader of Kirkland & Ellis’ data privacy practice, as a litigation partner in its Chicago office.

Morgan Lewis Adds Partners from PwC, SDNY Criminal Division
Morgan Lewis has hired a former managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ national tax services practice, Daniel Carmody, and Daniel Tehrani, the former deputy chief of the appeals unit for the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Wilson Sonsini Hires Irell Litigator Who Won ‘The Amazing Race’
Irell & Manella litigator and a former winner of the reality TV show “The Amazing Race” Victor Jih has joined Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in its Los Angeles office.

Foley & Lardner Grabs IP Team of Four From Dentons
Foley & Lardner is expanding its intellectual property bench with a four-lawyer team from Dentons that includes the former co-leader of the mega firm’s IP practice group.

Gibson Dunn Lures Two Private Equity Partners Away from Kirkland
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has added a pair of private equity partners from Kirkland & Ellis.

U.S. Healthcare Antitrust Chief Joins Clifford Chance
The Justice Department’s top healthcare antitrust enforcer, Peter Mucchetti, has joined Clifford Chance LLP.

Paralegal at Philadelphia Firm to Get Sexual Harassment Trial
Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman PC must face trial on a paralegal’s allegations that she was sexually harassed by her supervising attorney and others during her two months at the Philadelphia personal injury firm, a federal judge ruled.

Ethics

Cantor Colburn Deceived PTO in Patent Process, Fed. Cir. Says
Two inventors misled the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with the help of patent law firm Cantor Colburn LLP, the Federal Circuit said.

Profanity-Laden Emails Earn Sanctions for California Attorney
A California plaintiff’s attorney who cursed in emails at opposing counsel representing Allstate Insurance Co. and threatened them with waterboarding and face tattoos must pay $17,808 in sanctions, according to an order from the Central District of California.

Kansas Suspends Lawyer Who Forged Judge’s Signature
A Kansas attorney who forged the signatures of a judge and a clerk, neglected numerous clients and fabricated court pleadings, has been suspended for two years by the state’s top court.

Judiciary

Roger Stone Jurors Will Get Free Legal Help During Bias Dispute
Jurors who convicted Republican operative Roger Stone for lying to Congress during the Russia investigation will get free legal representation while a journalist attempts to access a jury questionnaire.

California Bench Getting More Diverse, Report Says
California’s judiciary is getting a little less white and male with the number of judges claiming Latino, Asian, black, American Indian, and other races increasing over the past 14 years.

WAKE-UP CALL

Legal Tech Company Suspends Site After Ransomware Attack
In today’s column, several firms advised on multi-billion dollar deals; shared workspace giant WeWork fights a former in-house lawyer’s bias suit; and Alston & Bird posted gross revenue and PEP gains for 2019.

PRACTITIONER INSIGHTS

INSIGHT: Coronavirus Triggers SEC Disclosure Obligations
The coronavirus and its potential impact on businesses is triggering a careful look at SEC disclosure obligations. Adele Hogan, partner at Nelson Mullins, says its known and unknown impact on earnings, supply chains, customers, and other stakeholders, as well as other business matters, is likely to be material for some companies and require disclosure. Environmental, social, and governance factors may need to be disclosed as well.

INSIGHT: A Lawsuit Against Adult Entertainment Sites Might Clarify ADA
A new lawsuit filed by a deaf patron against adult entertainment sites for failing to provide closed caption access may help clarify compliance with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, writes Posi Oshinowo, special counsel at Wiley.

INSIGHT: Trump ‘Secret Science Rule’ Would Set Environmental Law Back Decades
The Trump administration’s “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule will severely limit the scientific studies used by the federal government to create new regulations. Environmental attorney Shawn Collins says the rule requires all data to be publicly available, including confidential medical records and sensitive personal information, and will be a major impediment for clean air and water rules.

INSIGHT: GCs Must Transform Their Teams for the Decade of Disruption
The general counsel role is rapidly changing and the 2020s will bring new business, technology, and organizational challenges. In Part 1 of a three-part series on GCs and their teams, Matthew K. Fawcett, senior VP and general counsel at NetApp, says current cost models, organization models, budget and staff allocations, and risk management plans likely will need significant overhaul.

WORKFLOWS

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan hired Angus Chen as a partner to the Intellectual Property and Life Sciences practice groups in New York from Haug Partners | Shumaker added Jeffrey M. Guy to the Sarasota office as a senior attorney on the Litigation team, and Nnennaya “Nina” Ubabuike to the Charlotte office as a paralegal in the Medical Malpractice team | Kirkland & Ellis said that Stephen Jacobson has joined the Houston office as a partner | Clark Hill hired energy lawyer Joseph Donovan in Washington as a member from Holland & Knight | Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell added real estate partner David Tabibian in Los Angeles from Glaser Weil and was earlier at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman | Foley & Lardner added four attorneys to its Intellectual Property Department and Electronics Practice Group; partners Eric Sophir and Gary Solomon, senior counsel Matthew Horton and associate Kamyar Maserrat all arrive from Dentons | Butler Snow announced that Gary C. Rikard, former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), has rejoined the firm in its Regulatory and Government group in Ridgeland, Miss. | Eckert Seamans added associates Andrew P. Orr and Eric Felland to the Aviation Group in Washington | Akerman hired Cary Farris and John Linker to its Labor and Employment Practice Group in Houston from Winstead PC | Clifford Chance added DOJ Antitrust Chief Peter J. Mucchetti as a partner in its Americas Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice in Washington | Orrick grabbed Shannon Yavorsky as a partner to the Cyber and Privacy Team in San Francisco from Venable | DLA Piper recently hired Marc Samuel as a partner to the Corporate practice in Washington and New York; and partners Keelin Kavanagh, Arthur Hoffmann and David Jaroslaw recently joined the Litigation practice in New York.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Kaufman in Washington at bkaufman@bloomberglaw.com

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