In years past, corporate counsel jobs were viewed as less — less challenging, less stressful and less robust than the work attorneys in law firms were doing.
The days of a corporate counsel sitting in the legal department and waiting to solve the next legal problem that was presented to the office are over. Companies are more sophisticated. Supply chains stretch around the world, operations are expanding, markets are opening and technology is transforming just about everything. Plus, a seemingly steady stream of new laws and changing regulations touches on many aspects of doing business.
General counsel have to keep up, said Michael Sachs, partner at the Chicago office of Major Lindsey & Africa. They are expected to get out of their offices and collaborate with other parts of the company.
Indeed, for at least the 10 years, Sachs and his colleagues have heard executives place business acumen among the top attributes they want in general counsel. In-house attorneys must be good lawyers, but they also must have a sense of the business and be able to help the company achieve its strategic goals.
Zurek believes that corresponding to these changes in the corporate counsel role, the reputation and respect for in-house positions also have grown. He pointed to the applications that would quickly arrive from Indianapolis attorneys in private practice when OneAmerica “let it be known” there was an opening in the legal department.