I teach law students about the role of in-house lawyers. Most of my students will not move in-house upon graduation, but a primary objective of the class is developing them into empathetic outside counsel. Through role-playing exercises, I try to bring the law students into the rarefied and often conflicting environs of the boardroom, the executive suite and corporate conference rooms. The in-house counsel’s art of managing business imperatives, legal compliance mandates and ethical obligations is as compelling as it is mystifying to the students. One student remarked that the in-house role seems lonely. I confessed that at times it was.
The inspiration for this column was to take the lonely out of managing the unique ethical issues that arise inhouse. Law firms often have an in-house resource to counsel attorneys on ethical issues; corporate law departments generally leave these matters to the individual lawyers to figure out. That is why I began writing this column, not as an expert but as someone who was willing to lead a discussion, identify best practices and face common ethical issues as a community.