Big Blue’s big legal department: centralized, span of control, and matrix

At one time decentralized, IBM’s legal department recently centralized as it “’dis-embedded’ its lawyers from its business units and created a single global team.” This description comes from Corp. Counsel, Vol. 16, June 2009 at 75, and reminds me of a comparable decision at Schneider Electric to have all the lawyers report ultimately to the general counsel (See my post of July 15, 2009: centralization at Schneider.).

In 2009, eight assistant general counsel at IBM report to the General Counsel, Robert Weber, along with six senior attorneys. That span of control at the top (14 at least) is about as wide as you will find (See my post of May 29, 2009: direct reports to the general counsel with 12 references.).

The assistant general counsel and the senior lawyers work in a matrix, with duties crossing geographic and business lines. A matrix is inevitable in a large, global department. To cover both regions and lines of business mandates a matrix structure.

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