Credible GCs

Credible as lawyers, that is. Do they exist?

I think they are often better than firm lawyers because they actually have to arse themselves to know how the people they are advising operate

One of the most impressive lawyers I've ever met never went near private practice, undertaking his pupillage at the employed bar.

He was very very bright and charismatic and made a small handful of private practice lawyers into millionaires with his instructions (although none of them did as well as he did). 

law firm guy: "do this"

client: "er our systems don't allow that but ok *puts advice in drawer*"

GC: "do this which takes into account our systems"

business: "are you sure we have to I can't be bothered and IT is busy."

GC: "yes"

Law firm partner: It's a great point and we'll give it some thought (then send you a pointless memo stating the law and how it applies when what you wanted is an OK).


GC: It's a great point. We'll run it past external counsel (and burn through thousands on top of my own package).


Secretary: for fook's sake any idiot can see it's fine to go ahead. 

The whole thing about in-house legal teams demanding lawyers who are businessmen first and lawyers second is utter horse shit

Sure, you need to understand the business in the industry in order to operate as an effective in-house lawyer. Or indeed, to operate as good external counsel!

The problem is when laws and good risk management are abandoned by lawyers who sign sign off that is dodgy or risky. The head of risk management at Credit Suisse, for instance, who I think was a senior lawyer, overruled a decision made by junior risk controllers regarding a Greensill loan. Presumably she was acting on the instructions of someone higher up. But she was the most senior lawyer in that situation, as I understand.

I think a big problem is the inability to track legal risk within an organisation. Where a GC makes a decision that is unpopular or uncommercial, but saves the business from a complete meltdown, they will rarely get acknowledgement of their contribution because the bad thing never happened.

There are also instances where bad decisions are made by GCs but the business gets away with it because those risks never crystallise.

Sorry, so basically, I find a lot of GCs are not really very credible as well

Yep, my boss is consistently the best all-round lawyer in the room

Jamie, you make some very good points there.


I think the idea of ‘legal risk’ - beyond ‘you haven’t done exactly what I said’ - is not really understood by quite a few lawyers. A good GC can go beyond some of the legalities to have a discussion of the commercials too. 

Yes I hear some of the above made by the lazy and incompetent to justify their existence

i am basically superman and the only reason people don’t know who I am is because I have saved the business so many times but I act in the shadows behind the scenes. I am Morphius and Neo, I am the Men in Black.

Fun fact: Jesus wasn’t that famous 2000 years ago. Just saying. But he fell on those nails and took it for the team. Just saying. In the job you have to take a lot for other people. Only those with the strongest wills can make the toughest decisions

For the second time in two days:  exactly what Jamie says.

BTW while there are some truly awful lawyers in all types of practice, you can't be a decent GC without being a good lawyer; it's just that a lot of them hide it because there's so much else to the job.

It varies a lot but as a pp partner, I still find some GCs terrifyingly good tbh. You always have to be careful if you stray out of your core skills not to make a fool of yourself with a GC who knows a particular area better than you do. Frankly even in core skill areas you sometimes come up against a GC with a great pedigree who knows eg their docs/structure better than you do.

Most of the time they still want to buy your services as they need extra resource for a deal, project management, access to other specialists etc or external sign off - but pretending you know more than them, even where you do, is really not the right thing to do.

Depends on where they are the GC. 

I have to cover many areas of law, including some specialised points (and where I will know our structure, and how it all works, better than the law firms) and spend most f my day doing law (and some management too). I instruct external law firms when I can't do it because it's not my area or I don't have time (or both).

When I was in PP I dealt with GCs who were all over the detail (tended to be at smaller companies) and then the other sort was the GC that 'looked after' a large team of lawyers and things like panel processes. These people seemed to do little legal work but maybe that's because they only have oversight.

As ever, some are very good and some are not.  There are a substantial number who seemed to do little than tour the conference circuit offering platitudes and giving the impression that the detail of law was beneath them.  

As noted above, there’s less opportunity to hide, play bullshit bingo and near everything out in a small company.  Frequently better compensated as well, although the perceived glory is in managing teams and talking ones book.

I’m a GC and I’m absolute shite so basically what the OP said

tbf i have worked with a real mix of GCs

some absolute fecking chancers who bend over backwards to the board. I refuse to invest in certain FTSE100 companies for this reason - I have no confidence in their head of legal!

some v v capable people though too though elsewhere - grafters who know the law and are genuinely nice too

Never met a GC who didn't love the sound of his own voice.