May 2007 Issue
For prosecutor Anne M. Tompkins, it was a dream assignment. The assistant U.S. attorney had prosecuted Medicare cheats and drug dealers--important cases in Charlotte, N.C., but hardly the stuff of international news.
Then in 2004, she volunteered to become one of the dozens of American lawyers and other experts who would help Iraqi officials build the case against former dictator Saddam Hussein.
The charge against Saddam would be crimes against humanity. But which crimes?
Imagine, before sitting down with your client to advise her about her legal options, having to consult the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site to determine whether someone else already owns the patent to the course of action you want to suggest. If that’s the case, you’ll have to pay the patent holder so your client can take your advice. But the patent holder also might refuse to sell you the license, limiting your client’s legal options. Then what?
It’s a common occurrence at all types of companies: Supervisors decide to let an employee go. And while the prudent thing might be to confer with counsel on possible legal ramifications, the reality is that firings, like hirings, generally are accepted as part of the routine fabric of corporate operations.