Risks if a general counsel manages departments unrelated to duties as lawyer

A quote by Norman Augustine, the retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, appears in an interview in Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 15, July 2007 at 46. Augustine makes a good point about the scope of a general counsel’s responsibilities.

“If the general counsel is to be looked upon as a persuasive counselor, it may not be advisable for the general counsel to manage departments unrelated to the general counsel’s duties as lawyer for the company. When that occurs, I become concerned that if the decision made by someone in one of those departments goes awry, the general counsel’s advice may be tainted, consciously or otherwise, because the general counsel is, in this case, responsible for the performance of the department.”

Two recent examples would run afoul of Augustine’s argument for separate roles. Teresa Bryce, the general counsel of Radian Group, is also the company’s chief risk officer (GC Mid-Atlantic, July 2007 at 27) while Mary Jo Dively, the general counsel of Carnegie Mellon, is also the university’s head of human resources and risk management (GC Mid-Atlantic, July 2007 at 9). If something were to go wrong legally in one of those departments, Augustine asks whether the general counsel – who manages the department – can remain objective.

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