To be promoted to an officer, a lawyer in a corporation usually must be a direct report to the General Counsel, at a minimum.
The perquisites include participation in senior executive compensation plans, more indemnification rights, coverage under the D&O policies of the company, perhaps the right to accelerate options and grants in the case of change of control, and other benefits.
Whereas a promotion within the law department may not require anyone else’s approval (See my post of Nov. 8, 2005 on the role of HR representatives who serve law departments.), elevating someone to become an officer is a corporate decision. In most companies, the titles (and availability) of Senior Vice President or Vice President are determined by the company’s human resources department and its policies for such officer titles. Such slots are sparingly approved.
Hence, becoming an in-house officer implies compensation, authority, and recognition.