One quote, three wrong attitudes about expectations for in-house counsel

At The Lawyer’s Seventh Annual Summit For In-House Lawyers a month ago, the European general counsel of Tyco International made a provocative remark. As reported, he “urged in-house legal teams to hold the hands of management on critical legal issues and not bother with mundane day-to-day legal work, which can be handled by secondees and paralegals.”

This paraphrase by a journalist, which admittedly could sorely misrepresent the actual statement, sets my teeth on edge for three reasons. The first is that “hand-holding” comes across as patronizing toward child-like, fearful executives (See my post of Dec. 10, 2007 about patronizing attitudes.).

Second, from little legal-issue acorns do mighty oaks of legal issues grow, so if lawyers in-house don’t attend to the steady flow of business issues that have legal implications, they and their company will be repeatedly bushwhacked.

Thirdly, “mundane day-to-day legal work” should be delegated or passed back to trained clients or streamlined, but to “not bother” with the work that constitutes most of the daily fare of lawyers is the wrong attitude. It smacks of elitism (See my posts of Dec. 3, 2005 about the need to handle a steady diet of normal legal work; and Oct. 8, 2005 about rocket science.).

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