Being on the inside, at the intersection of the legal team and executive management, general counsel are privy to the fast-moving world of business. Inside counsel struggle to keep a number of balls in the air all at once, and they must deal with a wide variety of topics, from diversity to legal careers, from succession planning to changes in hiring practices. It’s been a busy couple of weeks inside the boardrooms of American business, and here is a roundup of some of the top stories that are relevant to inside counsel.
Increasingly, businesses of all types are learning that diversity is good for the bottom line. The more perspectives and points of view present in business decisions, the better. The same holds true for law firms, and Vault released its latest study on law firm diversity, factoring in diversity for women, minorities, LGBT individuals, military veterans and those with disabilities. Ropes & Gray took the top spot, followed by Littler Mendelson. Rounding out the top 10 were: Carlton Fields Jorden Burt; Paul Hastings; Schiff Hardin; Debevoise & Plimpton; Shook, Hardy & Bacon; Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner; Alston & Bird and Baker Donelson.
Gender diversity is essential when building a successful legal department and, while men still outnumber women in the general counsel chairs of Fortune 500 companies by a 3-1 margin, there are organizations that do recognize achievements by women in the legal profession. One such organization is the American Bar Association (ABA) itself, which has given out the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award for more than 20 years. This year’s recipients are: Judge Judy Gertner, Marissa Wesely, Stasia Kelly, Allie Latimer and Kathryn Doi Todd.
The bar exam is such a right of passage for a lawyer that a world without it (and references to JFK Jr. not passing his first few times) seems impossible. But for graduates of Iowa law schools, the bar exam may not be a foregone step in their careers. The state is considering a proposal that would allow graduates of Drake University and the University of Iowa to take extra courses on Iowa law, pass an ethics exam and a background check, and be allowed to start working as attorneys without taking the bar. Opponents of the measure think it would lead to incompetent lawyers in the Hawkeye State.
Succession planning is one of those topics that companies know they should discuss but don’t always explore in detail. It can sometimes be uncomfortable for people to consider who will take their place when they are gone, but unpredictable events can make proper planning essential. Take the example of JPMorgan Chase and its chairman and CEO, Jaime Dimon. He was recently diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he assures employees and investors that he’ll be okay, this illness spotlights the fact that bad things can happen out of the blue, and companies that are not prepared are asking for chaos.
Canada recruits foreign workers
Canada is making it easier to hire skilled foreign workers. In the United States, H-1B visas let U.S. employers higher temporary foreign workers in select fields, but the U.S. has made it harder for workers to obtain those visas. Meanwhile, Canada is opting to make it easier for certain immigrants to come into the nation, especially in cases where there is a specific need for certain skills.