Title Simplification? A Passe Idea

I used to recommend that legal departments prune their collections of titles   Rather than proliferate titles, I said, stick to the basic trio structure, Corporate Level Legal Level – Specialty.  For instance, VP Associate General Counsel – Litigation.  Since many in-house lawyers are not officers, they would have a two-part title: Assistant General Counsel – Widgets.

But I now confess that the elegance of economy – a minimalist view of what to call people — and the predictability of similarity – everyone knows immediately where they stand – has lately given ground.  I have come to feel that while law departments operate under headcount straitjackets, while base compensation soars up to 2.75% each year, while promotion opportunities come about infrequently, why not stroke people with titles?  A bouquet of titles doesn’t burden the law department, but they buoy the person bestowed.  Senior Assistant General Counsel, Securities and Compliance.  Ornamental titles might irk Human Resources, I suppose, but they too ought to support retention efforts, which titles are to some degree.  Neither do titles imply compensation changes.  Maybe title expansion is why the term “chief legal officer” has become more common; we now see all kinds of General Counsel – Asia Pacific and the like.

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