There’s only one general counsel, and that person may be in the traces for years, so if he or she hires upwardly mobile, talented legal stars, their having a short track and no space to run will cause frustration (See my post of Oct. 10, 2005 on competitiveness among direct reports.).
Ambitious lawyers don’t wear blinkers; they will look elsewhere, eventually, to run for the roses. (See my posts of May 20, 2005 about losing a strong performer, Sept. 10, 2005 about the need for some B-players, and Oct. 18, 2005 about not every lawyer wanting to do rocket science all the time.)
Some amount of legal work is better done inside and lacks charisma: it is meat-and-potatoes guidance that plow-horse lawyers and paralegals ought to do, not stallions. The daily legal fodder of most in-house counsel consists of relatively routine legal questions and documents, not Sea Biscuit dramatics.
A law department needs a team that includes some thoroughbreds, but also some stalwart Morgans.