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Is tHE ERA Of the evil general counsel finally over? For most of 2002, it seemed that every month a prominent in-house lawyer — most notably at Tyco, Andersen, or Enron — raced through his perp walk, squirmed before Congress, or departed from his job in flames. Perhaps the worst offenders have finally been ferreted out. At the least, somebody cued the white knights. They emerged in the form of William Donaldson, Harvey Pitt’s replacement at the Securities and Exchange Commission; Benjamin Heineman, Jr., who recently launched a landmark corporate governance proposal at GE; and veteran GC and former litigator William Lytton, who took the legal helm at Tyco late last year. The SEC’s pullback on the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation is also a sign that in-house lawyers are shedding their evildoer reputations. As we went to press in late January, the agency scaled back some of its proposed reporting requirements for lawyers who become aware of “material violations” by their clients. For many corporate counsel, the SEC’s step was a crucial and encouraging move. (We’ll have a lot more on the agency’s retrenchment in our special Corporate Governance issue next month.) We’ve got our own GC hero in this issue, Allegiance Telecom, Inc.’s Mark Tresnowski (see “Winning Allegiance,” page 64). His enemy isn’t nefarious executives, but skeptical Wall Street bankers. He leapt over rivals (Dallas doesn’t have enough tall buildings) with a low-key, no-litigation strategy toward the Baby Bells that helped the company make huge inroads in the local business phone market. But that’s not enough. Now, in a riveting tale by staff reporter Ashby Jones, Tresnowski has to cajole a group of banks into giving Allegiance more time to come up with the $660 million it owes them by the end of April. Will our hero succeed? Stay tuned.

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