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Picking “the best” of anything is perilous work. Our “Shortlist” isn’t about choosing the smartest or the savviest in-house lawyers. That’s too hard for anyone to figure out. Instead, we’ve selected ten gifted attorneys we and our nominators view as positioned to make the winner’s circle-promotion to a general counsel berth at a Fortune 500 company-. We made our selection knowing that the talent pool is deep, with many more potential candidates; and that subjectivity, not science, rules this game. Even so, our choices involved research, thought, and debate. We asked some 500 GCs, 350 law firm managing partners, and 650 legal recruiters to submit entries. To whittle the entries down to ten finalists, we looked for evidence of off-the-charts legal acumen, judgment, leadership, and the ability to relate to senior management as an equal. Was there a career highlight that closed the case for guts and glory? If so, that helped a candidate make the cut. In short, we wanted to be impressed. It was not inconsequential that American Insurance Group, Inc.’s Kenneth Harkins, Dell Computer Corporation’s Paula Boggs, BellSouth Corporation’s Marc Gary, and General Electric Company’s Brackett Denniston received multiple nominations, or that candidates like Viacom Inc.’s Laura Franco and United Air Lines, Inc.’s Marian Durkin were nominated by their own legal bosses. During the selection process, some GCs were reluctant to discuss their nominees. They feared departmental backlash and headhunter raids. “If I lose him as a result of this,” BellSouth GC Charles Morgan said of his associate GC Marc Gary, “I’ll be despondent.” Sorry, Charles, we can’t make any promises. All we can do is wish the finalists luck in getting their dream jobs.

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