Uber's Firing of 2 In-House Lawyers Raises Questions About Legal Culture

The two lawyers had expressed concerns about data-retention policies and allegedly made unauthorized contact with outside counsel.

, Corporate Counsel


The two lawyers had expressed concerns about data-retention policies and allegedly made unauthorized contact with outside counsel.

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What's being said

  • Dave S.

    Uber‘s firing of these attorneys and rationale afterward seems fishy. It is common for in-house lawyers to consult outside counsel, even without express permission, especially if they feel they are being asked by a higher up to do something that they think may be illegal. Getting permission to go to outside counsel even at a "startup" like Uber is unusual, particularly when attorneys use outside counsel at Uber all the time to get opinions on reducing risk. Add to this the fact that Uber is saying permission should have been sought beforehand from the very persons who approved the questionable data policy change. In-house counsel owe their duty to the company, not to their managers who might be exposing the company to greater risk. With a group of managers that seem to have approved "Greyball"and "Hell", is it any surprise the in-house counsel didn‘t seek express permission? The options highlighted by Favro above - internal reporting (to whom at Uber exactly would this be reported, when the questionable policy was being proposed at the highest level?), and whistleblowing to an outside agency - are options that most in-house lawyers would never take, because these would mean they are obviously disagreeing with management and taking them on, which everyone in a company knows is a war you will almost certainly lose if the person you are accusing is higher up than you. These are not realistic options for most in-house lawyers who wish to continue their employment at their company. Whereas the option taken by the fired in-house Uber lawyers seems to have been done in good faith to convince the GC with third party external advice not to change the policy, and would have allowed the GC to rely on an external document to change her position and save face with her CEO. Any outside counsel advice sought by in-house counsel is privileged, protected, not disclosable in a lawsuit, and does not constitute leaking private information to a third party. Reading between the lines, their firing by GC Salle Yoo likely means that the input received back from their outside counsel strongly counseled against changing the data policy when the GC was strongly in favor of changing the policy, and the GC was outraged that her judgment was questioned by her underlings. But in the end, it appears the policy was not changed, and the GC was saved from making a potentially bad decision that could backfire on the company and cause additional litigation. This is cold comfort to the fired lawyers who were also accused of providing "incomplete" information to outside counsel by Uber, also something which seems like a rationale by Uber to explain why the policy was not approved by outside counsel but approved by their GC. This highlights the dearth of respectful culture and leadership at the highest levels of legal at Uber, and this culture needs to change.

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