Member Spotlight: Sandra Cohen, Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Lawyer

Sandra Cohen is one of the founding members of Select Counsel, having joined the network during its first year in operation. She is the Managing Partner of Cohen & Buckmann, an employee benefits boutique law firm that is celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2021.  Sandra is an internationally recognized executive compensation attorney known for her compensation law knowledge and for her skill negotiating top-level executive compensation packages. 

Among peers, Sandra is a highly sought-after attorney whenever difficult employment changes are contemplated.  She negotiates robust pay packages for C-suite executives, as she describes, “when they are being hired, fired or acquired” and advises employers on equity plan and deferred compensation design (Section 409A).  As a prior M&A lawyer, she understands the transactions that are transformative to the executives and organizations who hire her.  She guides public and private employers through deal-making and pragmatic problem solving for the pension, benefits and deferred compensation issues that arise in private equity transactions, mergers, acquisitions, employment contract negotiations and development of incentive and deferred compensation strategies.  Clients and other attorneys seek her practical advice and business-oriented approach to nuanced tax and employee benefits issues. She is especially renowned for her accomplishments on behalf of women executives, from whom she routinely helps break industry barriers and shatter glass ceilings.

Recent Trends in Executive Compensation

Some of the 2021 hot topics that Sandra and her team members have been busy advising on:

  • Start-up equity plans and equity rollovers for founders, as well as the multi-national aspects of stock-based compensation.
  • COVID-19 related employee benefits, including changes in pension laws and healthcare regulations, including response to changes under COBRA and paid employee leave.
  • Executive compensation arrangements for SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies).
  • ERISA fiduciary issues, including plan investments and plan compliance.
  • Mergers & acquisitions: management team advice as well as benefits diligence.

Accolades

Prior to founding Cohen & Buckmann (www.cohenbuckmann.com), Sandra built her reputation as a skilled Executive Compensation attorney, starting with a JD from Yale Law School, then working for top global law firms. For more than ten years, she was a partner leading the U.S. Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits practice in the New York office of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. Prior to that, she was an associate for 6+ years at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, handling mergers and acquisitions and employee benefits matters.   

She is consistently honored in Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers, and earned the highest possible peer-review rating in her industry from Martindale-Hubbell, with anonymous reviews such as, “Sandra is … a go-to person for many executives. I have known her for two decades and worked with and against her. She has always exhibited the highest level of professionalism and ethics...”   In addition to her legal work, Sandra teaches Taxation of Employee Benefits as an adjunct professor at New York University Law School and has developed a tax research software called Pocket 409A, an interactive research tool created to assist executive compensation attorneys (www.pocket409A.com). In her spare time, she is either cheering on her kids at sporting events, or competing herself as a competitive dressage rider (914 Inc. Magazine took a peek at Sandra’s balancing professional and equestrian life in this 2020 article).

Contact information and further details can be found on Sandra’s Select Counsel profile.

Select Counsel Congratulates Member Marc R. Labgold, PhD on Recent Success in Singapore

Select Counsel congratulates its Member Marc R. Labgold, PhD on his recent success in obtaining a partial set aside of a final arbitration award.  Dr. Labgold and his colleagues represented their client in an international arbitration seated in Singapore and conducted under the ICC Arbitration Rules (2012). While he and his colleagues had prevailed for the client (the Claimant) in the underlying arbitration, the Tribunal had arbitrarily reduced the period over which liquidated damages were incurred by 25 days based on a defense raised for the first time in the Respondent’s post-hearing submissions. An application for partial set aside of the 25-day reduction of the liquidated damages was pursued before the Singapore High Court. 

In the case of CAI v CAJ [2021] SGHC 21, the Singapore High Court took the rare step of partially setting aside an ICC arbitral award on the grounds that there had been a breach of natural justice, and that the Tribunal had exceeded its jurisdiction. The set aside of the 25-day reduction resulted in additional liquidated damages (approx. S$20 million plus interest) being awarded to the client.  In a follow-on order, the Court awarded an additional S$52,874.27 in attorneys fees and costs.  

A copy of the Court’s decision is available for download here.

Member Spotlight: Alice Turinas of Turinas & Bird LLC

Alice Turinas of Turinas & Bird LLC exemplifies Select Counsel’s membership philosophy by providing experience, expertise, professionalism and an enhanced client experience.  

As a former business attorney for a global law firm with 725 attorneys and 13 offices (London, New York, Houston, etc.), and as former senior in-house counsel for AT&T’s web and e-commerce businesses, Alice has developed, negotiated and closed complex transnational agreements for technology businesses.  She has experience and expertise in the acquisition of both domestic and international SaaS and software companies.  She and her law firm partner also advise heavy corporate users of SaaS technology, and have helped non-US companies expand into the US market.  Her core practice includes advising clients on data security and privacy, insurance and risk management, protection of intellectual property, IP licensing best practices, doing business in the US, entity formation, capital raising and other aspects of corporate finance, executive compensation strategies, effective employment policies, and preparing a business for a sale or other exit options.  Alice frequently acts as outside general counsel for technology focused businesses.  

Recent trends In Alice’s Practice Areas 

Alice and her firm have seen their key practice areas tend to reflect the impact of the Covid pandemic, most notably with respect to the following trending issues: 

  • Data protection has become even more important than ever in B2B software. With vastly increased work-from-home for businesses, their SaaS providers, particularly in highly regulated industries, face increased scrutiny of data security protections from their large customers. And the providers give increased attention to the protections they can rely upon from their own suppliers. This increases the risk of being caught in what Alice calls a “liability sandwich” in the chain from customers to their suppliers.  Alice helps her clients negotiate contracts with significant customers and has been particularly busy lately reviewing and advising on supply chain contracts and related policies.
  • Similarly, data protection due diligence matters are getting greater emphasis in M&A and capital investment transactions. Alice has counseled her clients on relevant compliance issues and related best practices to better prepare them for future transactions.  She can also recommend independent, impartial consultants to proactively evaluate their existing data protection programs.
  • While the risk of data breaches have increased, data breach insurance has become harder and more expensive for SaaS companies to obtain. Alice has continued to advise her clients on mitigating these types of risk. She can recommend to her clients an insurance brokerage that is highly experienced in this type of coverage and also has extensive knowledge of relevant resources for mitigating risk.
  • For foreign companies attempting to increase their presence in the US, or establish a presence here, both travel restrictions and tighter immigration restrictions have raised new challenges. These include not only travel to / from meetings that cannot effectively be held online, but also transfer of key senior executives for stints in the US.  The situation has been changing rapidly, increasing unpredictability in strategic planning (with legal implications), and may continue to morph with a change in the US presidential administration. For example, together with experienced US immigration counsel, Alice has helped the principal of one client obtain a National Interest Exemption to enable him to attend to crucial matters in the US.  

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Alice received her JD from Harvard Law School and is licensed in New York, Texas and New Jersey.  She currently lives in Austin, Texas.  Her firm continues to maintain an office in New York City, where her law partner, Alison Bird, is located. Contact information and further details can be found on Alice’s Select Counsel profile.

Select Counsel Announcement

Thank you for being a member of the Select Counsel community.  2020 has been a challenging year for all of us and we at Select Counsel are grateful to have had the opportunity to serve you and your law firms during this time. 

Like many businesses, over the last several months’ Select Counsel has been hard at work, planning for and preparing diligently for the “new normal” for our business and for our Select Counsel membership community.  

Very soon, we will be making an announcement about many exciting projects that we have planned for Select Counsel for 2021 and beyond.

Legal tech CEOs urge lawyers to keep innovating beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

By Lyle Moran – ABA Journal

Lawyers should continue to embrace and further develop the technological and business innovations they have adopted in recent months even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, two prominent legal technology leaders said Tuesday at the ABA Techshow 2021.

“We have the opportunity today to build towards that third horizon or slouch back towards that first horizon,” said Ed Walters, CEO and co-founder of legal research company Fastcase. He enthusiastically encouraged attendees to “build the legal services and law firms of 2022, not rebuild what was broken in 2019.”

Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of cloud-based Clio, said one way attorneys and firms can succeed in the rapidly changing marketplace is by adopting a client-centered approach rather than a lawyer-centered one.

Firms can do so by taking steps such as creating a Google My Business profile to enable potential clients to quickly find the firm online. Lawyers can also implement technologies and processes to ensure clients can easily communicate with their firms from the beginning to the end of their legal matters.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the ABA Techshow 2021 here.

During the Techshow session titled “Innovating Towards a Better Normal,” Newton also highlighted several statistics from Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Reports, indicating clients prefer working with firms that offer a lot of electronic services.

https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/legal-tech-ceos-urge-lawyers-to-keep-innovating-beyond-the-covid-19-pandemic

2021 Legal Outlook: COVID, Cybersecurity, Environment, Diversity & Equality

Legal trends commonly begin by a confluence of economic and regulatory events.
Changes in laws, regulations and technology have come at a rapid pace over the past
year. Not only have these changes affected clients for legal services, the events that
occurred during 2020 required lawyers and legal systems to rethink many aspects of the
practice of law.

Size, practice focus and entrepreneurial spirit allows boutique legal practitioners to
respond quickly to changes in the legal landscape while providing an enhanced client
experience in a cost effective manner. Select Counsel was founded to create a unique
global network of boutique practices of former Big Law attorneys with top academic
credentials. Our members are uniquely positioned to respond to the challenges
presented by the current global events and the rapidly changing business and legal
environments.

In the coming months, Select Counsel will be highlighting our members’ specialty, niche
and micro-niche practices to help you and your business prepare for and respond to the
most pressing current and foreseeable legal issues including: COVID-related issues,
data privacy and cybersecurity, diversity and equality, sustainability and environmental,
intellectual property, transnational best practices and dispute resolution, corporate
reorganization and bankruptcy, and more.
We hope you will join us.

2018 Legal Outlook: Immigration, Patents, Employment, Compensation & Pensions, Data Privacy & Cybersecurity

(By Andrew Dick, Cindy Ansbach, Robert BlasiHeather MorganSandra CohenCarol BuckmannMike Regitz, Dustin Mauck)

Knowing what the future holds for your business depends on recognizing trends as they unfold. Trends begin by a confluence of events that can be identified by experienced practitioners who can connect the dots.

Changes in laws, regulations and technology have come at a rapid pace over the past year. These developments signal what lies ahead from a legal perspective in immigration, patents, compensation & pensions, employment, and data privacy & cybersecurity.

We asked lawyers who are part of the Select Counsel network, which features prominent boutique firm attorneys across the nation who formerly practiced at premier Big Law firms, to discuss the trends that will be shaping key practice areas in 2018 and beyond.  Continue reading “2018 Legal Outlook: Immigration, Patents, Employment, Compensation & Pensions, Data Privacy & Cybersecurity”

Legal Network Meets Changing Demands

By Andrew Dick, Founder and President, Select Counsel (selectcounsel.law) in San Francisco, California

Legal networks are a common way for law firms to expand their client service capabilities to new markets while retaining their independence. The standard model tends to be a club-like group where firms simply buy in to the organization. The member firms’ dues are then used to support some minimal infrastructure and an annual get-together or two. From there, member firms are encouraged to offer their clients in-network referrals. This can be a helpful resource for the law firms, but it may or may not be an actual client benefit.

The legal services market has changed dramatically. High-end boutique law firms are increasingly in demand as a cost-effective alternative to the big firms. This presents a new opportunity for legal networks, but these networks need to adapt to the needs of the client and diversify the historically member-centric approach.

Continue reading “Legal Network Meets Changing Demands”

In-House Counsel Find Big Law Experience Outside the Big Firms

By Andrew Dick, Founder and President,Select Counsel (selectcounsel.law)

Big Law traditionally has been the go-to answer for general counsel who need outside legal advice, but Big Law experience isn’t exclusive to big firms. Since the economic downturn a decade ago, the legal landscape has changed. In recent years, many prominent lawyers with niche practices have been leaving big firms to launch or join small firms.

Continue reading “In-House Counsel Find Big Law Experience Outside the Big Firms”

How Small Firm and Solo Attorneys Can Benefit from a Robust Legal Network

By Andrew Dick, Founder and President, Select Counsel (selectcounsel.law)

You’ve branched out from Big Law to start your own practice. You may be hanging out your shingle for the first time or maybe you made the leap several years ago. Perhaps you joined forces with some of your colleagues to create a lean, boutique law firm.

Whether you’re new to the game or a small firm veteran, a broad-based legal network can bring enormous value to your practice.

Continue reading “How Small Firm and Solo Attorneys Can Benefit from a Robust Legal Network”