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Interim general counsel and what that role suggests

From time to time, companies appoint an interim general counsel when the incumbent leaves suddenly. Examples include Home Depot (See my post of March 16, 2008: layoffs at Home Depot and interim GC Jim Snyder.), Sears, and Coca-Cola (See my post of June 5, 2006: designated successors.). Recently, the general counsel of Pfizer, Allan Waxman, resigned and that company appointed an interim general counsel. Sometimes the lawyer is referred to as the “acting general counsel.”

My sense of these situations, unfettered by any facts about any of the specific companies mentioned, is that we can draw two conclusions. One of them is that the resignation of the general counsel happened suddenly, before the company could complete a careful search for a successor. The other is that the bench of the legal department lacks strength, as there was no one groomed to step in right away as the full-fledged general counsel.

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