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Pros and cons of publicity for your legal department’s management initiatives

There are benefits to having your department written about approvingly for its programs and management efforts. Most CEOs like it when their people and units get kudos. The members of your department feel proud and more engaged (See my post of Aug. 26, 2009: the performance boost from engagement.). Other general counsel reach out to you, share their ideas, and you gain from the exchange. Recognition usually spurs further effort and continuous improvement. Being well regarded has advantages for recruitment and retention. Finally, when people outside the legal function know what you have done you have somewhat of a way to benchmark how you are doing.

Publicity for a legal department, however, also has its dark sides. The “star” general counsel may spend too much time being interviewed, speaking at panels, serving organizations, and basking in that modest flame of fame. Management of the department is not the highest priority of a general counsel, but renown in that area can seduce you.

Praise for a program can also bring out those who criticize the underlying philosophy or your allocation of resources. Inevitably, success for a program creates some competitiveness within the ranks and inevitably bad feelings about the apportionment of credit. Finally, if you hit upon a clever technique or program, it might be a competitive advantage, one that is frittered away by an article or remarks at a panel (See my post of Jan. 30, 2008: publicity by law departments with 12 references; and June 11, 2007: publicity with 12 references.).