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Comments from a profile on a general counsel advising on public policy and running a major business unit

A profile of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s former general counsel, John McGoldrick, makes two points that deserve comment. They are in Corp. Bd. Mbr., Vol. 12, 2nd Quarter 2009 at 44.

“Great general counsel come in a variety of flavors. Some are expert at helping their companies influence and adapt to the shifting trends of public policy.” Others litigate skillfully or bring a strong business sense, the piece adds, but I underline the part about policy influence. By training and experience, few general counsel would be expected to weigh in expertly on public policy. Perhaps I misunderstand the term and its nexus with the law.

The second notable point is that while McGoldrick was general counsel (and “taking lead responsibility for global policy, government affairs, and philanthropy”) he simultaneously became president of the medical-devices group, “which gave him operational authority over one of the company’s three main lines of business.” That was an awesome, but problematic, responsibility. How could he remain objective in terms of his obligations to the company as a lawyer?

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