General counsel who report to an erstwhile general counsel

Robert W. Best, the Chairman, President and CEO of Atmos Energy, was formerly the general counsel of that large, interstate, natural gas pipeline company, according to Executive Advisor, May/June 2006 at 40. The general counsel of Atmos, Louis Gregory, thus reports to a former general counsel. I know of other situations like this, such as at Cabot Corp. and Duke Power (See my post of Jan. 7, 2006 about promotions for general counsel.).

For a general counsel (or chief legal officer) to report to a former practicing lawyer could be good or could be bad. On the whole, I suspect the situation tilts toward good, because the CEO-lawyer has a better appreciation not only for legal risks but also for the value delivered by the law department than does another kind of CEO with a different provenance, such as a CEO-engineer, CEO-CPA or CEO-MBA.

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