Failure to acknowledge the risk with juggling multiple roles can result in more than just losing a job. It can mean losing a bar license.
When the in-house counsel assumes both legal and nonlegal roles at the same company during the same period, the in-house counsel must recognize that the chances of an ethical issue arising increases exponentially in a variety of ways.
Potential ethical pitfalls that may arise may include:
- ability to assert attorney-client privilege;
- strain existing resources; and
- result in client confusion.
If the in-house counsel fails to recognize these boundary issues and the in-house counsel fails to make efforts to establish them, they can find themselves in a difficult situation that may result in negative consequences for the company and the company employee.
As with anything in business, risk is all around us. The takeaway here is not to discourage you from assuming more than just a legal role. The takeaway here is for you to carefully evaluate the role before you take it; THEN you work proactively to manage and mitigate the risk associated with having both roles.
If you are looking for CLE ethics credit, check out How to Avoid Ethical Pitfalls about the Ethical Pitfalls When Partnering With the Business available through In-House Connect On Demand, where we talk about this topic and more!
Go to Above the Law for the full article.
In its 2023 GC Survey, Axiom asked general counsels how they perceived themselves in terms of their role as the company conscience. According to the results of that survey, an overwhelming majority of general counsels saw themselves as guardians of the company’s values. While it does appear that “corporal counsel as company conscience” is now a widely accepted belief among many general counsels, it is not held by all.
For some of us, the general counsel is not THE company conscience. The general counsel is merely ONE of many who serve as the company’s conscience. The responsibility for corporate conscience is not the responsibility of ONE. It is a responsibility shared by ALL.
As I see it, general counsel satisfies the responsibility by actively participating in company functions relating to leadership, training, reporting, and investigating along with other staff and business leaders.
- Leading: Senior administrators and managers are responsible for creating an ethical company culture:
- 1) by communicating expected ethical norms to employees;
- 2) by making all employees feel part of the company’s effort to create an ethical culture; and
- 3) by demonstrating ethical behavior.
- Training: Senior administrators and managers are responsible for:
- 1) training all company employees about the company’s ethics and compliance program; and
- 2) training all company employees on how to use a systematic approach to ensure ethical business decision making.
- Reporting: Senior administrators and managers are responsible for creating a process by which employees can report behavior they believe to be either unethical or unlawful without fear of retaliation.
- Investigating: Senior administrators and managers are responsible for fairly and impartially reviewing alleged unethical or unlawful activity and fairly taking appropriate action.
For the full article, check out the full article on Above the Law.
If you are a law school student or a even a lawyer who is relatively new to the practice of law, you may be surprised to know you have choices.
Lots of them.
When I went to law school, I thought I had a limited set of options when I graduated.
I thought I could either enter private practice with a firm or I could work as a public defender or a prosecutor. The thought of working at a company as an in-house lawyer never even crossed my mind.Read More
Pablo Picasso once said: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” As a junior lawyer in private practice, I was most comfortable when I could say firmly and with confidence, “This is the law, these are the facts, and, therefore, this is how I recommend that we proceed.” As a senior in-house lawyer, I learned very quickly that I did not have that luxury. I learned that I had to be flexible in my mindset.Read More
The General Counsel position comes not only with great responsibility, but it also comes with great opportunity. As a General Counsel, you have an opportunity to impact your company in a way other executive-level leaders can’t because of the unique nature of your position.
Because you work closely with everyone in the company, you are often in a position where you can often bridge the gap between the managers and the managed.
How do you bridge that gap?Read More
Taking the time to develop a personal professional brand is something all professionals should consider doing and lawyers should be no different. In my experience, lawyers who work in private practice generally understand the importance of building a personal professional brand because it is so closely tied to business development and growing a successful law practice. Lawyers who work in-house, however, generally do not spend much time building a personal professional brand because they do not feel the same pressure as those lawyers in private practice. To the extent in-house lawyers put any energy into developing a brand, they often focus that energy on building the company brand. In-house lawyers who take this approach do so at their own peril. When the in-house employment ends, the in-house lawyer who has not taken the time to build a personal professional brand may struggle to find a new role because their identity has been tied only to a company for which they no longer work.Read More