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Maligned as mere draftsperson, UK in-house counsel aspire to greater prominence

Int’l In-House Counsel J., Vol 2, Summer 2009 at 1188, has an article about the plight of UK in-house counsel, who, the author claims, are too commonly “still perceived as draftspersons because traditionally that is what lawyers did” – their “job is to read and draft contracts.” The author, a senior lawyer at Pitney Bowes in the UK, repeatedly claims that US in-house counsel have shed that pejorative straightjacket and attained exalted status at the right hand of executive managers.

Maybe; sometimes. At the root, many in-house attorneys spend much of their time with contracts. For example, at the 27-lawyer department of Carillion, the chief lawyer notes that “The legal department’s time is primarily taken up by one-off, often bespoke, contracts for the group’s external clients …,” as reported in Legal Strat. Rev., Winter 2009/10 at 24.

The role is hardly that of a passive scrivener, an over-paid amanuensis. Contracts let companies buy, sell, and compete, so in-house counsel are profoundly in the fray.

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