What Business Managers Seek from General Counsel

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The Role of Outsourced General Counsel–part 2: Advisor, Educator, and Sounding Board for the CEO



In the prior installment of the importance of the chief legal officer–whether that person be outsourced, in-house, or at a specific outside law firm–I identified the four goals for the general counsel.  In this installment of the critical role of the one lawyer who has overall responsibility for the legal function—smaller businesses which rely on an outside counsel, or outsourced general counsel,  or larger companies which have inside counsel but need to retain outside counsel for some of their legal work- I wanted to point out the results of a 2004 survey conducted by the American Corporate Counsel Association (ACCA) of important roles and attributes of in-house general counsel as determined by corporate executives:

  • Most desirable qualities for counsel:  trustworthiness, confidentiality, and providing accurate, timely and focused feedback.
  • Most important role Educator regarding legal issues; ethics advisor; compliance officer; and sounding board for the CEO.
  • Critically important was a counsel’s understanding of the company’s business and their ability to enact and enforce compliance policies.

Surprisingly, a minority valued the in-house counsel as a risk manager.  Here are ways that a chief legal officer can help the company manage risk:

  • controlling costs of legal costs;
  • managing the legal services;
  • identifying and assessing risks;
  • counseling senior management;
  • performing compliance work;
  • implementing disclosure and reporting controls required by Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

In the next blog post on this subject, I’ll discuss how a General Counsel needs to assist companies to have in place enforced compliance policies in order to avoid corporate criminal liability.

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