In your role as in-house counsel, are you primarily a lawyer or primarily a business person?

I asked this question at a workshop I led for The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) last month.

Some bristled initially at the question. It seemed they felt that the answer was obvious: lawyers first, no question. But as the debate developed it became clear that old certainties are changing.

My challenge was: If you take the “corporate shilling”, do you not have a duty to help grow the business first, within the law, like every other employee? There was again some initial pushback on this and, it seemed to me, genuine discomfort at the dichotomy of gamekeeper versus poacher, as they might see it.

My view is that in-house counsel and the business are better served if they join the management team fully, just as the CFO does. He or she has to be as much of “a cop” as in-house counsel.

What do you think?  Please join the debate by posting your comments below.

You might also like to watch my video interview with Paul Gilbert, CEO LBC Wise Counsel where I discuss these issues in more detail.

The proposed legislation on “protected conversations” is in danger of missing the point

Lucy Kellaway (Lucy Kellaway) and others have recently commented on the proposed legislation in respect of its pros and cons from a practical point of view. Fair enough, but there is an opportunity now to start to reflect in legislation the reality of the workplace in the 21st. Century, that is: we are all micro-businesses selling our services to organisations, which are themselves merely coalitions of these micro-businesses for increasingly brief periods, and we are doing so in return for cash and “soft” benefits. The “conversation” required, whether protected or not, is the reframing of the “deal” between ourselves and organisations. What do we need from the organisation? What does it need from us? On what terms? It’s that simple except that it requires an Adult-Adult transaction – not a Parent-Child transaction as in days of yore. If this reality were reflected in legislation, then Lucy Kellaway’s view that we all need to be told to pull up our socks from time to time can and should still happen but more in the nature of a breach of an SLA rather than a “telling off”.

Ciaran Fenton
Fenton & Co LLP