Hierarchy of titles: “Associate” over “Assistant” General Counsel

Based on compensation surveys and an analysis of titles in my book, Law Department Benchmarks: Myths, Metrics and Management, the title, Associate General Counsel, bespeaks more authority than the title, Assistant General Counsel.

Two other points about titles deserve mention. I heard from a General Counsel for three law departments that no one should have the title, General Counsel, unless they control virtually all the resources typical for that position. That is to say, to make someone the General Counsel of the widget division when that person does not control the litigators – they have been centralized in a group – or various specialists such as Human Resources, IT and intellectual property, overstates that lawyer’s authority. His preferred title for that person is “Chief Counsel.”

This same General Counsel also removes corporate titles, such as Vice President or Senior Vice President, from his lawyers’ titles. He continues the same level of perquisites and internal recognition that those promotional levels bestow, but he has removed them from official designation.

As I write this, I wonder whether there are Chief Legal Officers who do not have General Counsel reporting to them.

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