Are Your Ears Burning? Listen to What GCs Say Behind Your Back

By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 23, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you are outside counsel, don't be surprised to learn that general counsel talk behind your back.

It's practically a requirement because GCs have a duty to inform their clients about the good and the bad of outside representation. At best, outside counsel can hope it's all good.

But the reality is that inside counsel have a different perspective. The best thing to do is listen to them carefully, and maybe you'll get a clue about what they say about you behind closed doors.

Closed Doors

Maureen Brundage, former general counsel and ethics officer at Chubb Corp., said GCs are unlikely to disparage outside counsel in public. It's an unwritten rule that they are more discreet.

"Just given the way we are, it's not our nature to be dissing in a public setting," she said.

So they may not shoot from the hip in a board meeting, but they may take you out in a session with the president. Better head that one off at the pass.

"Listen to what your in-house lawyer is saying and not saying about the goals that the company/client has set in your case," according to FindLaw's Practice Management Guide.

Working Tips

Companies really don't want to hire outside counsel, especially when they already have lawyers on the inside. It's a delicate balance. Here are some tips to maintaining that balance with in-house counsel:

  • Align your goals
  • Be clear about expenses
  • Build a trusting relationship

It may be hard to build trust when you know your in-house colleague is talking to the client about you. But if you are also doing your best for the client, it will go a long way towards keeping the whispers on the down low.

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