A bit ago here in New York a dinner was held with the legendary Ben Heineman (GE SVP/GC from 1987 to 2003, Harvard BA and Yale JD [editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal], Rhodes scholar, Potter Stewart clerk) and 50 or so GC’s or senior inhouse counsel from Fortune 500’s.
I wasn’t there, more’s the pity, but what follows is from an impeccable source.
As you can imagine, much of the conversation focused on the GC/law firm relationship. I won’t saddle you with more stress than your day may already hold, but I was told the level of hostility towards outside firms was palpable.
That’s not why I’m writing.
I’m writing to urge you to have spine and backbone when you counsel your clients. Yes, even if it’s an unnatural act to deliver bad news. Particularly if that’s the case.
Why should I need to point that out? Isn’t that your job and much more than your job—your solemn professional obligation? I would have imagined and so, I hope, would many of you, Dear Readers, assume that to be the case. The sun rises in the east, we breathe oxygen, etc., and we advise our clients with the “punctilio of an honor the most sensitive.” (Go ahead, read the whole thing: Meinhard v Salmon, 164 N.E. 545 (N.Y. 1928) (Cardozo, J.))
It gives me no pleasure to continue, but the story I’m about to relate concerns a Fortune 10 corporation and at least three different n AmLaw 15 firms.