If you read his column in InsideCounsel, May 2008 at 8, you learn that the very busy general counsel of Microsoft, Brad Smith, has “breakfast once a month with a dozen people from across our department.” It sounds like he breaks his fast with a sample of employees and uses that informal time – to the extent that those employees can begin to relax and talk comfortably with him – as an opportunity to take the pulse of the department (See my post of July 27, 2007: skip-level discussions are the right of a general counsel.).
Informal settings let managers of law departments pick up on and respond to employee concerns, learn about disengagement, pick up on rumors, and hear complaints (See my posts of Oct. 24, 2006: rumors everywhere; and April 13, 2007 #4: gossip.). It’s a wonderful thing to do.
Of course, even casual chatter over a bagel will be scrutinized extensively (See my post of Oct. 30, 2006: general counsel are in the spotlight.). Still, Smith deserves much credit for the effort (See my post of Feb. 12, 2008: management by walking around.). His breakfasts embody the opposite of the aloof and remote general counsel (See my post of Dec. 31, 2006: imperial general counsel.).