Deploying JAG Strategies for Corporate Legal Depts.
Major-General Blaise Cathcart is an in-house lawyer for a global organization with plenty of firepower: the Canadian Forces. The approach he uses as a judge advocate general can be deployed by general counsel who are mobilizing their own in-house battalions.
By Brian GlaserApril 26, 2013
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Major-General Blaise Cathcart is an in-house lawyer for a global organization with plenty of firepower: the Canadian Forces. In a speech last week at the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association spring conference, Cathcart outlined how the approach he uses as the military’s judge advocate general (JAG) can be deployed by general counsel who are mobilizing their own in-house battalions.
According to Canadian Lawyer magazine, Cathcart’s description of his team of military lawyers and their relationship to the armed forces command structure mirrored that of corporate legal departments. “My legal officers work for me—not the commanders they advise,” he said, adding, “They have a degree of independence that allows them to courageously give advice the client may not want to hear.” That advice may be on life-and-death issues rather than M&A deals, but the underlying concept will be familiar to GCs.
Cathcart has been serving in the Canadian Forces’s Office of the JAG since 1990, and was appointed to head the office in 2010.
The centerpiece of his talk, “Lessons on Advising and Leading under Pressure,” was a list of core concepts from his JAG work that corporate in-house teams can use for the issues that cross their desks, including “Build a strong team” and “Know the client and the business.”
In his discussion of the list, Canadian Lawyer quotes Cathcart saying that point No. 1, “Find and recruit the right people,” is as much about “building our organization for tomorrow” as current needs. “We need to treat every new hire as if they are one day going run the organization.”
But Cathcart says that all of his strategies are aimed toward achieving the final point on his list: “Trust your people.”
In the Goulston & Storrs 2017 General Counsel Survey, fifteen percent of GCs or in-house counsel say they have the most difficulty identifying exposures, and this emerging risk is reshaping their role.
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