Corporate Counsel Bracing for Higher Costs

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Corporate counsel are looking ahead to the election and perhaps liking what they see: prospects for full employment. That's because most counsel expect a dramatically more expensive corporate environment, with plenty of legal challenges that will only become bigger. And bigger challenges lead to more work. The rest of the given counsel's company may suffer, however.

<<This is according to a survey released by the Association of Corporate Counsel and the firm Jackson Lewis. Some of the results are interesting, and conscientious job seekers can use these results to help tailor their job searches.

Click Here to Read BCG Attorney Search’s Guide to Corporate and Finance Job Search Categories for More Information.

The survey involved almost 400 corporate counsel, and six out of 10, or 60%, expect this year's presidential election to affect labor and employment laws at their companies.

But what, more precisely, are some expecting? Increased health care costs and mandatory sick days. Lots more workplace regulation. If Obama is elected, perhaps the Employee Free Choice Act. This act, which is aimed at unions, will eliminate secret balloting in union drives. Of course, this will lead to more bullying union tactics, which will likely lead to more unionization and strengthen labor in negotiations.

Regarding regular, day-to-day challenges, the corporate counsel surveyed said that workplace discrimination is the most time-consuming employment issue, followed by family and medical leave, wages and hours, and employee benefits. Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was also mentioned as a concern.

So what does this mean for corporate counsel job seekers? Union experts — particularly if Obama wins — will be in demand. Indeed, we can expect a resurgence of unions in general, whether desired by the employees in question or not. With the loss of the secret ballot, intimidation to vote for unions will likely mean more unions, and thus a corresponding need for corporate counsel to deal with them.

<<Labor law in general will become far more important. If you have credentials in labor law, or can acquire them, it will give you a leg up on the competition.

Expect compliance work to become suddenly more popular as well. With an expected wave of new regulations from the SEC and others, largely due to the financial sector collapse, compliance with the new regulations will become crucial. There will likely be another bill similar to Sarbanes-Oxley, with a corresponding impact on corporations. This will ratchet up the need for more compliance and monitoring work from corporate legal departments.

As for job seekers, if you can emphasize past compliance or union work, it should be very helpful. In particular if Senator Obama wins, and has a Democratic Congress backing him, corporations can expect their legal costs to soar — which is bad news for them, but good news for aspiring general counsel job seekers. As long as you like compliance issues and fighting unions, that is.

On the other hand, with a newly empowered labor sector, there may well be openings for attorneys to represent the unions as well, so don't forget about that potential job market.

Good luck!