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General counsel as head of legal as well as member of the executive management team

A piece in GC Mid-Atlantic, June 2008 at 8-9, describes the role Steve Fulton, the general counsel of $1.2 billion in revenue Respironics. His legal team consists of nine attorneys and three support personnel. The article comments that Fulton “wears two hats. He is responsible for ensuring that all of the company’s legal needs are handled in a high-quality, time-efficient, cost effective manner. He also serves as part of the executive management team.”

The point may be obvious, but it is important to remind ourselves. Two roles converge for most general counsel: leader of the legal department and one of the leaders of the company. The best general counsel, in my opinion, have more respect within their company as an executive than as a lawyer. Indeed, it is not unusual to see a general counsel promoted to a business position (See my posts of March 1, 2007: Angela Braly at WellPoint; and May 26, 2007: six references cited.). This blog comments most on the hat of the top lawyer as manager of the law department; the second hat, senior corporate executive, deserves commentary also.

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