Doctors only trust doctors, CPAs only respect CPAs, and lawyers only accept direction from lawyers (maybe). Since administrators (especially non-lawyers) can only go so far to tell lawyers what to do, it is not surprising that a large legal department would appoint a senior lawyer to run the operational sides of the department.
Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining group, brought in Leah Cooper in May 2007 to serve as the “managing attorney” for the company’s 100 lawyers around the world (See my post of June 4, 2007: 50 lawyers worldwide for Rio Tinto and decentralized reporting; May 4, 2009: 100-year relationship with major firm; and June 18, 2009: describes offshoring arrangement and annual £60 million external legal bill.). Cooper’s responsibilities and decisions are laid out in Legal Strat. Rev., Summer 2009 at 13, and they appear to be broad (See my post of Feb.13, 2008 administrators with 21 references.). Many legal departments of this size might consider a similar position and incumbent lawyer.