The legal profession is a sucker for a good title. In private practice, we fight tooth and nail to get the Partner tag. In-house is generally no better. Head of Legal, VP of Legal, Director of Legal, Corporate Counsel, are all titles that could potentially be the lawyer in charge. There is less confusion when we are talking about the General Counsel, at least there was up until the last few years.
There are now two roles that could potentially confer the person you are talking to the leader of the legal department: General Counsel (GC) and Chief Legal Officer (CLO). For some departments, those roles are the same person. For others, a CLO sits above the General Counsel, with the roles looking like this:
To get to the bottom of whether there was a distinction between these two roles, we went to Twitter (X?) and asked the in-house lawyers their thoughts. Unsurprisingly, we received a resounding “it depends.”
Some noted that their organization had a GC handing the day-to-day legal issues that arose, while the CLO took over big picture strategy and the board room. Others noted that they had a GC per region and a global CLO above the organization. But then we also received plenty of:
Our take? Generally speaking, the bigger the organization, the more likely to have a CLO and GC working in tandem. It’s even more likely when there are country or region specific legal departments. Smaller department? A combination of the two roles. Again, we are speaking broadly and generally.
Have thoughts on the GC v. CLO distinction? Let us know!