Does a general counsel face more difficult ethical pressures than colleagues if asked to do significantly more with less?
Assume that the workload of a law department increases steadily yet the CEO requires cuts in both legal staffing and outside spending. Does the imbalance of professional obligation as a lawyer to a client and the exigencies of a company struggling to stay afloat financially squeeze a general counsel between an ethical rock and hard place? A quote by an unnamed general counsel from a transportation company in Texas appears in Met. Corp. Counsel, Sept. 2010 at 49 and suggests such a pivot point. “At what point does the expanded workload and reduced budget become an ethical issue for the GC?”
Even though the head of human resources or information technology or finance may face no comparable rules of professional conduct (a lawyer must fully and adequately represent a client), are they less troubled by budget cuts that prevent them from delivering the level of service they believe is needed by their company? All employees have recourse to resignation if the demands on them are unreasonable or harmful to others or their employer. Why is the top legal officer any different?