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The PepsiCo Legal Academy, and a rumination on the law-business continuum

In 2003, the general counsel of Pepsi started the Legal Academy, where the company’s “top lawyers met with … the company’s president and chief financial officer, as well as its auditors and others, to discuss the company’s strategy, financial performance, and accounting controls.” As described in Constance E. Bagley, Winning Legally: How to Use the Law to Create Value, Marshall Resources, and Manage Risks (Harv. Bus. School Press 2005) at 227, the president urged the lawyers to speak up if a manager proposed a deal that did not make good business sense to the lawyer instead of just focusing on preparing the perfect legal documentation for a flawed deal.”

On the continuum between purely lawyer and purely business executive, that executive wanted lawyers reasonably close to the business decision-making. (See my post on Jan. 5, 2006 about executives and lawyers needing understanding each other.)

The right balance of objective legal counsel and savvy business guide is hard to define and teach, but with the erosion of attorney-client privilege, the distinction may cease to have as much significance as it did in the past.