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“Professional” and “decentralized” – thoughts based on one law department (AXA Group)

In June 2006, George Stansfield, Senior Vice President and Group General Counsel of the £72 billion AXA Group, spoke at the 18th Annual General Counsel Conference (See my post of July 25, 2005 for more on AXA’s legal team.). In Stansfield’s slides on the challenges facing a global organization, one said “AXA’s Legal and Compliance Organization consists of over 300 professionals operating in a decentralized environment all around the world.”

Everyone would agree that a lawyer is a professional, but who else in a law and compliance department should be deemed a “professional”? Does the term include paralegals? Compliance managers? I suspect that Stansfield is bestowing the honorific on all members of his department.

He uses the term “decentralized,” which is also subject to multiple interpretations (See my post of Jan. 18, 2007 on the geographic and reporting denotations of this word.). His next bullet adds that “this decentralized structure reflects the structure of our operating businesses.” At least the law department is in alignment with its clients, whatever that means.

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