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James Lipscomb joined MetLife, Inc., in 1972, right out of Columbia Law School. Since then he’s outshone even Snoopy, the MetLife spokesdog, in the loyalty department. In July all those years of service finally won him the top legal spot: executive vice president and GC, responsible for 300-plus lawyers in a dozen countries. The 56-year-old knew the promotion was coming. He’d been summoned back to the law department, from the business side, in 2001 to be groomed as then�GC Gary Beller’s successor. Beller stepped down on July 1 after nine years in the top legal job. Lipscomb got the nod largely because he spent 11 years as a vice president, working on MetLife’s corporate and investment strategies. As he explains: “The best way to serve your client is to know your client’s business.” His peregrinations within the company began in 1990, when he was asked to join MetLife’s strategic research group, which was scrutinizing the future of the company. “I didn’t want to leave being a lawyer, to tell you the truth,” says Lipscomb. The move brought not only a serious case of culture shock but also the humbling experience of watching senior management toss most of the group’s ideas into the trash. Lipscomb’s next assignment was heading up the insurer’s corporate planning and strategy group and its real estate investment group. Then he was made president and CEO of Conning Corporation, an asset management company that MetLife acquired in 2000. While at Conning, he reported directly to Beller. When the subsidiary was sold a year later, the GC asked Lipscomb to become his deputy. Although the new GC says that he wasn’t looking to go back to the law group at that point, he will admit that “from day one” at the company he had wanted to become the chief legal officer. Lipscomb says he welcomed each career move as a step toward this “BHAG” � business lingo for big, hairy, audacious goal, a term that he jokes supports his claims of fluency in both legalese and bizspeak. The law department changed during Lipscomb’s 11 years away. More work is now done in-house, and there has been a surge in mass tort and privacy actions. But Lipscomb says his involvement in the American Bar Association and close ties to other industry GCs have kept him up to speed. And now that his dogged efforts have earned him the ultimate bone, Lipscomb says he is not about to let go.

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