This year, 780 Canadian corporate counsel ranked nine choices as 1 (most important), 2 or 3. I list the choices below followed by the percentage of the respondents who ranked it as one of those three. The list comes from In-House Corporate Counsel Barometer 2006, Canadian Corp. Counsel Assoc. at 7:
“Candidly weigh and assess risks of various courses of action” (87)
“Minimize risk” (61)
“Provide good alignment with business units” (46)
“Manage outside legal counsel and related costs” (39)
“Ensure appropriate corporate governance practices are complied with” (35)
“Ensure a sound corporate compliance program is in place” (26)
The other choices were “Handle litigation files” (1); “Negotiate deals” (1), and “Other” (1).
I assume that “risk” means “legal risks” in the top-ranked functions, but am curious that thinking about risks stands so much higher than reducing the risks. The third function – “Provide good alignment with business units” – makes no sense. Is this a quadrille, in line? Why isn’t the function something like “Provide legal counsel and documentation in furtherance of business goals”? My last objection goes to the compliance theme in the final two functions. The law department should decide how people act, not police their compliance with those policies.