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General counsel now “measured by their business acumen”?

“General counsel are no longer measured by their legal prowess,” blares Corporate Legal Times in its July 2005 survey of law department – law firm sentiment, “but by their business acumen.” How silly!

If you thought that “business acumen” means how skillfully they apply the law to the business environment of their company or understand that business, you might be closer to a truthful statement, but according to the article (July 2005 at 37) you are wrong. How well GCs manage to a budget matters more than how well they apply the law or understand the business. I disagree completely.

To say that the CEO and CFO are pressuring general counsel to squeeze costs falls a long way from saying that protecting the company legally no longer counts as the primary objective. Neither in hiring outside counsel nor in running a law department does a general counsel privilege cost reduction if quality and results are at risk of slipping below professional expectations. Legal ethics, professional training, the in-house culture, and career longevity put quality of legal insights over bean counting, cost shaving.

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