Not every in-house lawyers pines to be a general counsel; many don’t want the pressure and demands (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005: OK to have some B-players who have hit a plateau; May 18, 2007: stress and pressure with 7 references; and June 11, 2008: stress with 18 references.). Thankfully, most are comfortable with their patch of ground.
Few in-house lawyer relish a steady diet mind-bendingly difficult legal issues to wrestle with; most want interesting problems, but not many more recondite than that (See my post of Oct. 18, 2005: mix of rocket science and quotidian work; Dec. 3, 2005: the need to handle a steady diet of normal legal work; Dec. 5, 2005: topsy-turvy pyramid of work; Jan. 25, 2007: think again about commodity work; May 21, 2007: interesting legal work and perceptions of workload; June 14, 2007: more than 50 percent of work in-house could be defined as routine; Aug. 21, 2008: sweet spot; Sept. 27, 2009: Goldilocks balance of work; and June 6, 2008: commodity, routine and standardized work defined.).
Not every legal department strives to be world-class, best in breed, acclaimed and award winning; indeed, getting the job done and feeling pretty good about it serves most general counsel and their legal teams (See my post of; May 16, 2007: be wary of pursuit of world-class status.).
As with most employees, content to do their job well but not push for the spectacular, so most in-house legal teams bob along on the surface of modest quality and productivity.