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A pole-vault bar for how much corporate lawyers should know about the business

Ben Heineman, dispensing Olympian wisdom about law department lawyers, confides that “business leaders were enthused about inside lawyers who could help get things done.” Yeah, ok, what’s new, but what else follows that obvious allure from Corp. Counsel, Vol. 14, April 2007 at 85?

What follows is an expectation bar set very high. Given an inside lawyer’s ability to accomplishes things, the ex-GE general counsel grandly adds that business leaders “were also receptive to counsel participating in core business decisions” – hold your breath – when the corporate lawyers were at the same level as smart, veteran managers: when “the lawyers were also savvy about technology, products, markets, geographies, competitors, etc.” Encyclopedic knowledge and veteran experience in every MBA subject? That bar is nose bleed for lawyers inside, hard-pressed by the rising tide of work, yet even with that breadth and depth execs were no more than “receptive” to the lawyers’ involvement!

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