Dispersion of lawyers at Sarah Lee but centralized reporting

The law department of Sarah Lee has 30 lawyers in 11 offices worldwide. That description comes from Corp. Bd. Mbr., Vol. 11, July/Aug. 2008 at 80, in a piece on its former general counsel, Rick Palmore. Palmore has recently moved to General Mills to lead its law department.

Two observations struck me as I read about the far-flung Sara Lee department. First, given that the company has a headquarters in or near Chicago, where a recent directory lists five lawyers and a second location with three lawyers, the remaining 22 lawyers in nine offices average slightly more than two per office. That ratio of around two lawyers per non-headquarters office is perhaps what many global law departments are moving toward as they scatter their staff near their clients and operations.

The second observation is that all the lawyers reported to Palmore. Sarah Lee is not a company that has decentralized reporting of its business unit lawyers to executives of business units (See my posts of Feb. 19, 2006: in-house lawyers risk “going native” compared to “independent” outside counsel; Jan. 1, 2006: decentralized reporting of business unit lawyers at General Electric; July 25, 2005: the same at AXA; March 17, 2006: the same at HSBC; May 20, 2005: attorney client privilege at risk when line lawyers report to business managers; and March 1, 2006 and Aug. 27, 2005: double reporting lines of lawyers at John Deere, Nokia, and TIAA-CREF.).

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