general counsel, take 2
James A. Landau
JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Feb 6 14:57:53 UTC 2004
In a message dated Wed, 4 Feb 2004 16:35:10 -0500, Catherine Aman
<caman at AMLAW.COM> writes
> I am writing an article
> touching on the history of the in-house legal department and am curious to
> know of any early citations for the title "general counsel." I know that
> lawyers in these jobs were at one time (mid-20th c.) referred to as "kept
> women" because they were (1) on company payrolls, and (2) their skills were
> not generally admired among corporate lawyers in law firms. I suspect that
> the word "general" in the job title indicates that these lawyers were
> generalists, weighing in on labor and employment issues, real estate
> matters, contracts, litigation, &tc
I suspect that "general counsel" comes from the same origin as "general
manager", who is the manager in charge of ALL operations in a given company, or
site, or whatever, with all other "managers" at that location having more
specialized duties. cf a professional baseball team, which has one "general manager"
who hires and trades and subordinate to him a singular "manager" who directs
the team on the field.
Hence a general counsel handles, or supervises, all the legal work of the
firm, with, as workload demands, other counsels or just plain lawyers handling
Compare "Attorney-General", or the simiolar Postmaster-General, or that
military term "Sergeant-Major General".
Objection: in corporate law there is such a thing as a "general partner" in
which "general" does not mean "high-level universal scope" but rather
specifies the partner's exposure to liability.
a note on terminology: a professional baseball team takes orders on the
fileld from a "manager" who is assisted by "coaches" (although "coach" has the
second meaning of "anybody who is assigned to the first- and third-base coaching
boxes"---THE manager has the option of choosing himself to be A coach.). In
basketball, however, the person directing the team is "the coach" and "the
manager" is the person in charge of supplying clean towels.
- Jim Landau
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