Archive for June, 2008

Performance Appraisal

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

In late March, Sheryl Sandberg left Google to join Facebook, the social networking site, as COO.  She immediately instituted new management and operations processes.  These included guidelines for identifying and recruiting new employees, management training initiatives, and employee performance review procedures.

Fast-growing, entrepreneurial companies like Facebook are so busy that formalizing HR processes often are on the back-burner.  In fact, even larger companies (and some public companies I know) neglect setting up appropriate HR processes.  This not only can lead to liability, but to potential employee performance and satisfaction issues.

In the early part of my career, as an attorney at Day, Berry & Howard, we had only top down performance reviews that came from the partners with whom one worked.  With my own subordinates, I went further and instituted a more in-depth review of my own performance.  I regularly asked my assistants and occasionally, junior attorneys with whom I worked, questions like “How am I doing?”, “How can I do better to make us more efficient?” and “How can I help you to help me?”  To do this, you need to be open to criticism, which is something many hard-charging attorneys with Type A personalities have difficulty with.

For me, it paid great dividends.  I established excellent relationships that, for example, allowed me to delegate more of the mundane work to my assistants, which freed up my time for substantial work and allowed them to feel they were really contributing to our team.

360 performance review, which I understand that Ms. Sandberg initiated, incorporates more than just getting feedback from one’s superiors and subordinates.  It also can include getting feedback from departmental coworkers, those in other departments, suppliers and sometimes, customers.  Supposedly, it provides a more accurate picture of one’s strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve them (although there are some concerns about 360 performance appraisals).

At E-Solutions Integrator, we grew very rapidly from the outset.  We did not use 360 performance review during my tenure, but developed this performance evaluation form for both the reviewed employee and his or her manager to complete.  Each company needs to develop performance evaluation metrics that fit the needs of that particular organization, taking into account the job position, the requirements of that position, the type and size of the business, and the company’s stage of growth.  This form worked well for us in the early stages of our existence.

Securities Class Actions

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

I once read that 1/3 of all publicly-traded U.S. technology companies had been involved in securities class action litigation. This has trended down this decade, but such cases still are being filed.

Stanford Law School, in cooperation with Cornerstone Research, a firm that consults to attorneys involved in complex business litigation, maintains a securities class action clearinghouse. It provides a wealth of information regarding individual federal class action cases alleging or involving securities fraud. This includes copies of litigation documentation as well as the prosecution, settlement and defense of cases, as well as statistical information.

Immigration Classifications and Visa Categories . . . and the H1-B Visa

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Those of us who’ve worked in the tech industry in Massachusetts constantly hear about H-1B visas. Right now, as during the Internet buildup in the late 1990s, we can’t get enough software engineers, so we hire qualified foreign nationals if we can, often via H1-B visas. An H1-B is a type of nonimmigrant visa that allows for temporary residence in the U.S. to work.

In fact, an H1-B is one of numerous immigration classifications and visa categories for nonimmigrants, beginning with A-1 (Ambassador; public minister; career, diplomatic or consular officer, and members of immediate family) and ending with V-3 and TPS (Temporary Protected Status). H1-Bs are used for hiring foreign nationals who will be employed in a specialty occupation or as fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. Specialty occupation means one has at least a bachelor’s degree in an area of specialized knowledge, such as law, mathematics, theology or the arts, among others. The number of H1-B visas is subject to an annual cap established by Congress.

More details on H1-Bs and how to apply are available at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) website. Tara L. Vance at Holland & Knight has written an article, Hiring Foreign Nationals Without the Benefit of H1-B Visas, that discusses them in further detail, along with B-1, C, D, E and L-1 visas.

By the way, UCIS has a considerable number of forms available on its website, including Form I-9, which lists the documents that establish identity and employment eligibility to work in the U.S. Technical tip for HR departments: Keep your Form I-9s in a separate folder, so only they-and not the other employment documents-are accessible during a search to determine employment eligibility.

The Emergence of China and India

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

We try hard to determine the future, but it is difficult to predict because so many variables exist. Who could imagine in 1908 the scientific advances of the 20th century, the two world wars, the rise and fall of communism, and the emergence of a wealthy western economic system after a dark depression in the 1930s?

That said, from the perspective of 2008, it appears that this will be the century of the human genome and the re-emergence of China and India (“Chindia”) as economic giants (In 1500, they accounted for about 49% of the world’s gross domestic product.). They will soon account for 40% of the world’s population and have been exhibiting rapid economic growth this century.

Global capital has and will continue to pour into Chindia. E-Solutions Integrator, the company I joined the day after it was incorporated in 1999, went public (as Cambridge Technology Enterprises) on the National and Bombay Exchanges in India. We originally outsourced software development in India and later had development and support offices there.

Political and social systems have yet to catch up. For example, in China, attorney/client privilege is not recognized except regarding trade secrets. In India, under the Evidence Act of 1972, privileged communications are protected, but in-house counsel are not considered to be attorneys, so as a general rule, communications between lawyers working for a company and officers, directors and employees are not subject to protection.

The China Law Blog focuses on law for those doing business in China. It includes a list of the authors’ favorite China-oriented law blogs, such as IP Dragon, which discusses intellectual property law in China, and the China Business Law Blog.

South Korea will prosper greatly from Chinese economic development. The Korean Law Blog provides updates on Korean law, and the Korean IP Law Blog more narrowly focuses on intellectual property issues.

Indian Corporate Law reviews business law topics that impact India. Law and Other Things is a blog about Indian law, its courts and Constitution.