succeed in their mandate ought to be thinking more about
ways to prepare students.”
LESSONS FROM NIKE’S HILARY KRANE
Krane, general counsel at Nike Inc., so far is the only active
general counsel to accept Columbia’s residency. She says she
compressed 16 hours of class sessions into six weeks, while
she continued working on Nike issues by phone every day.
“There were real things happening every day,” Krane says,
pointing to the pro-democracy protests that began in Hong
Kong last June and continued for months. The company is
the largest athletic gear marketer in China. There was also a
monsoon in Japan that threatened Nike employees and the
“So I would take the first 20 minutes of each class and say
here’s a list of things happening in the world that I have to
pay attention to,” she says. Amid the Hong Kong protests,
Nike ended up pulling some products from China because
of a backlash after a fashion designer spoke in support of the
Hong Kong protesters.
“The students would ask provocative questions,” she
recalls, “and we had some really good discussions. I got a lot
from their point of view, and they got a much more realistic
sense of the breadth of challenges in running a multinational
Krane adds that the “students in the room are the age
group of our target consumer. ... Being able to have them
noodle through issues with me is like doing it with target
consumers. That’s invaluable.”
The theme of Krane’s seminar was Becoming a Trusted
Adviser: The Role of the General Counsel in the Modern
Multinational Corporation. She explains that she sought to
teach the core of the work—that
is, “what is really the substance
you have to deliver as a general
But she also taught how to
be effective in that role, which
Law schools, she says, don’t teach enough about such soft
skills that are important in succeeding in the business world.
She says the three most important lessons she taught were:
■ How to be business savvy and business curious so one can
understand the context in which they are providing advice.
■ That legal analysis for an in-house counsel is the beginning of the conversation. Then come the rest of the steps,
including analyzing the impact on the brand, business implications, and public relations moves. “It’s seldom here’s the
legal answer, now we know what to do,” she explains. “It’s
here’s the legal framework and rules that apply—so how do
we achieve what we want to achieve while being mindful of
■ Being a general counsel is not about the individual; it’s
all about the team. One’s success depends on “your ability to
surround yourself with the right people with the right capabilities, and their ability to work together,” she says.
To stress that point, Krane brought six members of her
team to campus to appear at a moderated lunch talk before
a couple hundred business and law students and faculty. The
speakers included Krane, four of her senior lawyers, the head
of Nike’s government affairs, and the head of social and community impact.
“It gave the students 60 minutes of insight into the real
dynamics of how we interact,” she says, including “joking, cut-
ting each other off, making more complete answers of what
each other said. It was standing room only.”
The general counsel says the whole experience “was so
much fun.” She says a surprising number of students have
stayed in touch with her by email, asking for career advice, or
a reference, or advice on a specific issue.
Krane says she thinks other law schools should pursue
courses on how to be an in-house counsel. “It’s good for
students to get some perspective on what it really means
to be an in-house lawyer as distinct from being at a firm,”
“And it’s really good to hear someone talk about the soft
skills, and the role of emotional intelligence for success in
the law. Even more emotional intelligence is required in the
in-house practice,” she adds, “where you have one client all
MP McQueen is an ALM editor-at-large. Contact her at mpmcqueen@
alm.com. Sue Reisinger, based in Florida, covers general counsel and
white-collar crime. Contact her at email@example.com.
Bruce Sewell in conversation with professor Eric Talley at
Columbia Law School.