Cultural symbolism of the general counsel’s physical office

On a roll about culture and norms in law departments, I mused about what the physical office of the general counsel signifies to people in the department (See my posts of Nov. 20, 2007 and Dec. 17, 2007 with definitions and comments on culture; Jan. 25, 2007: semiotics; and Jan. 8, 2008: ethnography; June 24, 2007: cultural anthropology.). Everyone in a law department draws conclusions from the trappings of that particular office. My ruminations touched on several of those blatant or subliminal messages.

The office’s location, size, and proximity to other executives’ offices tells about the power hierarchy in the company and where the general counsel stands in it (See my post of May 16, 2005: the gold coast syndrome; and July 31, 2005: the general counsel having a remote office.).

How much time the general counsel stays in the office conveys indicators of openness and busyness (See my posts of Feb. 12, 2008: management by walking around; May 24, 2007 #3: a general counsel in a cubicle; and Sept. 25, 2006: open-door attitudes of general counsel.). Accessibility speaks volumes about the level of communication the general counsel likes. Is there an imposing guardian at the door or telephone who overprotects the general counsel?

The size and furnishings of the general counsel’s office may say something about rank, and quite a bit about personal taste and out-of-office interests (See my post of Dec. 17, 2007 about office art.). Two general counsel I have worked with had their own private washroom.

The degree of messiness and orderliness of the office says much about how the general counsel prioritizes and organizes (See my post of Feb. 2, 2008: piles.).

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