General Counsel ought to feel completely free to call or speak, directly, with any lawyer the department, regardless of level. Doing so, however may upset the boss of a lower-level lawyer who is called. Skipping a level can make that person feel that they are being gone around, disrespected, or marginalized.
Be sensitive to the reverberations from the skip-level contact. But I think the most important value at stake is open communication. A general counsel encourages people to speak freely and promptly by keeping the channels of communication open at all levels (See my post of Sept. 25, 2006 on “open-door” policies.).