It dawned on me a few years ago. a couple of In-
house lawyers from a large company in the Midwest
were in town. They were regular readers of the magazine (this was before our website was a daily news operation), and they wanted to meet for lunch.
We went to a new Italian place near our offices in
Manhattan and had a terrific meal: sleek atmosphere,
good food and intelligent conversation. Now I’ll confess.
We New Yorkers grow up with certain preconceptions
about people from cities smaller and supposedly less
cosmopolitan. It’s wrong, I know. And I was shown just
how wrong I was when these lawyers talked about how
the global nature of their company influences how they
do their jobs. As the meal progressed, I found out that
one of them was involved in a dual-national marriage,
shuttling back and forth to Italy every couple of weeks.
And the other had lived in more places than I’d ever
hope to visit.
In fact, in one short afternoon I got the impression
that our readership was widely traveled and had concerns far beyond the borders of the United States. And
by now, it’s become a cliché. Today’s corporate counsel
needs to keep track of different privacy regimes, anti-bribery laws, and European Commission directives, as
well as how sourcing concerns might blow up the next
So this past winter it was interesting
to see how our across-the-pond friends
live and work. The occasion was a
conference given by the U.K.–based
law firm Eversheds for their European clients in Copenhagen. In some
ways, they’re remarkably like their
American counterparts. They fret
about costs, they’re looking for ways to trim
expenses and they’re
trying to think about
novel ways of delivering their services.
In other ways,
though, they’re not
as far along as an
institution as their
American versions. Part of it is cultural: Few countries
are as lawyered-up as the United States. So there’s less
litigation risk, there are fewer go-to-the-mats lawsuits,
and class actions are not much of a concern. And big,
established corporate legal departments are a newer
A lot of the conference was devoted to, for want of
a better term, internal press relations. How to show
your worth to the corner office. How to condition your
business-side colleagues to rely on your advice. How to
communicate to the company what exactly the department is there for in the first place. As a legal journalist
who sees the legal department’s worth as every day as
ATMs and the Internet, it was a enlightening to me to
see how much Americans have evolved, and how much
our ever-smaller world still doesn’t move in lockstep.
THIS MoNTH’S CovEr STorY, HoWEvEr, SHoWS A
facet of the U.S. corporate legal department that’s seen
slow evolution. Women now account for about one in
five top company lawyers in the U.S., but women have
been almost half of American law school classes for
decades. There’s a disconnect there.
Progress had been steady, but stalled recently.
There’s an interesting theory behind that, though. Some
analysts see it as a sign of progress for the legal department in general. once the province of lawyers seeking
a gentler work/life balance, going in-house has become
just as prestigious, and perhaps as much of a pressure
cooker, as life in Big Firm law. So more men are pouring
into the top slots.
Check out Sue reisinger’s story, with her profiles of
women attorneys who have made it to the top. You can
find it on page 94.
VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE