Inside Experts: The 7 kinds of GCs

Which type are you?

In two of my past jobs as an in-house counsel, I was the first lawyer to ever be employed by the company. 

In the first job, at a small digital-imaging provider, the executive ranks consisted of career sales representatives and software engineers. Sales reps and engineers are not the kind of people who appreciate lawyers. But my theory as to why the company decided to hire an in-house counsel is that the two partners who owned the company had each been through divorces and, through that experience, had learned the value of good legal representation. I sincerely mean that. Eventually, my role in the company became one of giving advice on all sorts of matters, and I oversaw the development of business proposals for winning the company’s largest contracts.

4. Consigliere: These GCs play key roles in all major company decisions, including highly sensitive areas such as executive compensation. They rely on business data such as industry benchmarking as much as on legal opinions in giving advice. They maintain close relationships with the CEO and other C-level executives, and they are perceived as part of their companies’ “inner circles.” They can be vulnerable to accusations of unethical or illegal behavior. Consiglieres transcend the lines between personal and professional relationships between a lawyer and the business. 

5. Technocrat: These types of GCs focus mostly on corporate governance and the optimization of legal support through processes and automation, e.g., negotiation playbooks, self-help legal support intranet sites, mature reporting and compliance programs. They do not heavily rely on close relationships with other executives, and they are often active members of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and other legal industry groups. Technocrats fit company cultures that value operational efficiency, e.g., lean manufacturing.

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Eric Esperne

Eric Esperne is counsel for Dell Services and is located in Canton, Mass. He has more than 15 years experience as in-house counsel for government,...

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