Three points from UBS: reports to former GC, an interim trio, and “partners” yet no longer reporting to clients

A short profile in Corp. Counsel, Vol. 15, Nov. 2008 at 61, about Markus Diethelm, the new general counsel of UBS, contains three nuggets. The first is that the predecessor of Diethelm, most recently the legal head of Swiss Re, was promoted in April 2008 to chairman of UBS. This post has noted several general counsel who report to the former general counsel (See my post of March 24, 2007: promoted general counsel with 8 references.)

In April, after the former general counsel became CEO, UBS filled his job “temporarily with a three-person team.” Some companies choose an interim general counsel (See my post of March 20, 2008: four examples of interim general counsel.) but I have never heard of a temporary trio running a law department. Three caretakers, perhaps vying for the top spot, during a four-month period!

The third nugget arises from the comment that Diethelm, while at Swiss Re, centralized the reporting of all practicing lawyers to him so that they no longer reported to business executives. “That gave the legal department more independence and authority, he says.” The profile adds that “Lawyers became more like business partners” who “no longer just advanced solutions on legal issues, but they also formulated policies.” I suspect that business executives do not feel that centralized lawyers are more like “business partners” than when they report to the executive. Loyalty flows from the barrel of a paycheck.

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