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December 01, 2009

Redux: The GC as Wartime Consigliere.

(From a June 1, 2009 JDH post)

"I don't like violence, Tom. I'm a businessman. Blood is a big expense. "

In May of this year, over at his well-regarded Law Department Management, Rees Morrison, one of the smarter, sager and more experienced lawyer-consultants out there, had asked "Does a General Counsel Make All That Much Difference?" Our two cents is still the same for a working formula for "the right GC." And it's still a no-brainer: Get thee a philosopher-warrior. Be safe, and feel safe, friends.

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The Wrong Stuff: Tom Hagen (Paramount Pictures)

And Morrison had gone a bit farther, inspired in part by May's Atlantic piece "Do CEOs Matter?, by Harris Collingwood. A Morrison excerpt:

Other researchers have found that CEO leadership matters relatively less in constrained industries, such as electrical utility industries, than in hotly competitive, fast-changing industries. A similar conclusion probably applies to general counsel: legal/business calls are tougher and more frequent in roiling industries so the top lawyer has more opportunity to make a difference.

(Emphasis added.) Do we ever agree--as did the wonderfully warlike trial lawyer Scott Greenfield, when he picked up on our original post back on June 1 singing the virtues of the "tough-guy" inside counsel--that "GC warriors" are worth their weight in gold bow-ties and silver spats.

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Virgil 'The Turk' Sollozo. "I don't like violence, Tom. I'm a businessman. Blood is a big expense." (Paramount Pictures)

As Morrison suggests, it's just a business fact--especially in changing industries--that General Counsel do make a difference. So your corporate client might as well demand the "right" package:

A. She should be broad-gauged, intellectual, scholarly, take-charge, organized, preventive, resourceful--and warlike at heart.

B. Hates war as expensive ("blood" one Godfather character noted, "is a big expense")--but likes, and even revels in, a fight.

C. Tells management what to do--and not a tentative, qualified "what you can do."

Note: See also our May 15 post, "Proctor & Gamble's Lafley: Look to the Meaningful Outside", on the must-read thoughts of A.G. Lafley, P&G's then outgoing CEO, about CEO uniqueness in May's Harvard Business Review. In many respects, you can adapt Lafley's notion--i.e., the most effective top inside lawyers should "look to the outside"--to law departments at great companies.

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The Right Stuff: Rees Morrison

Posted by Rob Bodine at December 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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