Should groups of business unit lawyers have their own legal specialists?

General Electric’s law department sprawls – 1,000+ in-house lawyers – but still it amazed me to read that “each of the 11 GE divisions has its own general counsel and specialists in fields such as litigation, mergers, employment, government and intellectual property.” (Financial Times, May 12, 2005 at 9). Not, I presume, that every division has each specialist. Sometimes a specialist for one division, such as a bankruptcy maven in commercial finance, helps out another division.
Few law departments can sustain specialist lawyers in business units. If you have only two or three lawyers dedicated to a unit, there is probably not enough work to keep a specialist busy. Rather, a shared service group assists all the business unit lawyers.
A post yesterday considers three structural choices: specialists report to the head specialist, to the head lawyer of the business unit they support, or report to both. Separately from reporting, a general counsel must decide where to locate the specialists: together for collegial interchange or at business unit sites for closer familiarity and integration.
I favor co-location with business unit lawyers, dual reporting, and a strong community of practice among the specialists.

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