“According to the survey, when general counsel have more than 20 years’ experience, 35 percent of CEOs will get involved in evaluating outside counsel, and 31 percent of CEOs are involved in choosing the outside attorney to handle a high stakes matter.” (A survey sponsored by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubble summarized in Counsel to Counsel, Nov. 2005 at 17) More on this survey is in an earlier post (See my post of Nov. 11, 2005.)
What may account for this paradox – years of GC experience yet high CEO involvement with outside counsel – is that veteran GCs understand that with crucial decisions on how to handle hair-raising legal risks, the GC should check with the boss. Another possible explanation is that experienced GCs steer the legal course at large companies, where the size of litigation exposure from blockbuster cases more often reaches the CEOs desk.
I also grump at the wording of the finding. It says that a third of the CEOs “will get involved in evaluating outside counsel.” That could be informal feedback on one or two firms every year or two, or it could be much more. Without a more precise question that yields sharper data, we can’t evaluate this statement on evaluation.