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2019 GAPABA In-House Counsel Dinner: Panel Discussion Takeaways

It was an honor to attend and sponsor the 2019 GAPABA In-house Counsel Dinner last night along with my colleagues from the Major Lindsey & Africa Atlanta In-house Counsel team. As always, GAPABA organized an outstanding event.

The panel was fantastic. While by no means comprehensive, the following is my attempt to capture some of the ideas that emerged during their discussion. For those that attended the event, please feel free to supplement this list. I welcome any comments.

With the advent of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, the role of strategic communications is increasingly important when it comes to strategic responses to crises. Beyond a purely legal analysis of potential liability and any duty to disclose, savvy general counsel and law firms should consider reputational risk in their response and messaging when confronted with threats to the organization.

Diversity continues to be an extremely important topic on the minds of the panelists. When meeting to discuss potential new business or representation, law firms should ensure that the diversity of their team is reflected.

In addition to holding their law firms accountable for diversity, general counsel need to ask themselves and their direct reports: How much business have they personally directed to minority partners or law firms?

For new general counsel, especially those that come from specialized backgrounds, it is vital to "know what you don't know". This requires an amount of candor and humility. It shouldn’t be viewed as a weakness despite a lawyer’s natural tendency to always want to have the answers.

Most general counsel roles now report directly to the CEO. Job seekers should be mindful of this. If the general counsel role doesn't report to the CEO, it's a red flag that the general counsel is not seen as co-equal with other business leaders and warrants further investigation.

While CEOs may perceive other members of the C-suite as potentially vying for the CEO role, GCs that don't have this aspiration have an opportunity to become more trusted counsel to their CEOs.

In-house lawyers report satisfaction in being involved earlier in key business decisions which leads to more success in alleviating risk. However, early involvement and planning also requires more of in-house counsel’s time than being utilized on a purely transactional basis.

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