The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel: Serving Corporate Law Departments Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

Monday, October 27, 2014 - 10:04

Yesterday (about 60 years ago!) there were relatively few general counsel or legal departments except in the very largest corporations or those that, like insurance companies, were in businesses that required a legal staff to review policies and claims and manage any ensuing litigation.

During the ensuing years, law firms representing corporations frequently would recommend to clients that they hire in-house lawyers who would become an integral part of management teams throughout a company. They reasoned that by being in close touch with what was going on in the corporation, including its plans for the future, these embedded corporate counsel could head off exposure to liability and deflect impending public relations catastrophes.

Over the years, this trend gained momentum. As that momentum accelerated, the status of general counsel within their corporations was enhanced and their in-house law departments grew. In many corporations, general counsel serve as members of the small executive committees at the apex of their organizations. They are present at board meetings, providing valuable legal guidance and advice as needed. Indeed, it is now considered a best practice for corporate counsel to be included in management committees in various areas throughout corporate, government, not-for-profit and other organizations.

Along the way, trade associations in certain industries set up committees for corporate counsel to provide them with legal insights. Even where this was done, however, two essential ingredients tended to be lacking. One was easy access to a wide range of information that would enable corporate counsel to give reliable advice. The other was access to thought leadership from outside counsel to assist in-house counsel in finding the right attorney or firm to provide such information or handle litigation. 

Twenty-one years ago, my wife, Martha, and I founded The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel to provide corporate counsel with the missing ingredients. Thanks to our many loyal readers and partners in the legal community, it has been a long and gratifying run. As we now step aside, we are confident that MCC will continue to honor its mission of providing corporate counsel with invaluable information about legal developments from leading law firms, identifying outside counsel with the skills needed for particular assignments, and showcasing legal service providers who can help general counsel and their teams continue to thrive in today's fast-changing environment.

Al Driver, former General Counsel of JC Penney, is the Founder and Former Editor of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.