I recently spoke about prospects for federal privacy legislation at the annual conference of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. This group didn't even exist when I graduated from law school in the 1980s, but today it fills one of the largest ballrooms in Washington, D.C. Many of these privacy officers work closely with in-house counsel on a daily basis. The meeting reminded me of the constant evolution of roles in our nation's companies. New positions are born constantly, and older roles seldom remain static.
The in-house counsel role has its origins in the late 1800s, when railroads first added lawyers to their executive teams. As they expanded across the country, railroads were the first businesses to be subject to the laws of multiple states on a daily basis. Their continued growth turned on their ability to manage legal issues in a way that no industry had experienced before. No longer comfortable relying solely on outside lawyers, they hired general counsel, thereby ensuring that they could integrate their assessments of legal issues with other business considerations.
Ultimately, these forces are expanding our opportunities to contribute to our companies and the broader economy. In-house counsel positions are becoming even more interesting and more important. But as in all situations when the bar is raised, there are also new and bigger challenges. Change is constant, and we need to adapt to it.