The global legal department challenge: a shared sense of being one law department

The Gucci Group law department, under general counsel Cheryl Solomon, has more than 30 lawyers and paralegals located in London, Italy, France, the United States, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. That dispersion of lawyers around the globe, described in ACC Docket, Vol. 30, Sept. 2008 at 152, underscores the trend of international companies to spread their lawyers where there operations are, even if that means some tiny legal bases (See my post of Sept. 16, 2008: foreign locations of in-house counsel with 11 references.)

Assume the total number of Gucci lawyers and paralegals is 32; further assume a typical ratio of one paralegal for every three lawyers. To those assumptions add the Docket’s statement that three lawyers and two paralegals are based in London. All that leaves something like 20 lawyers in the remaining five offices, an average of but four lawyers per office.

As demonstrated with Gucci, one of the most significant management challenges for many leaders of global law departments will be to nurture a sense of one unified law department among several small clumps of lawyers – allied closely with their local clients. An “annual face-to-face meeting of the entire legal department once a year,” which is Gucci’s tradition, is not sufficient. Constant effort to integrate lawyers in multiple countries will be the lot of the global general counsel.

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