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Always knew an in-house lawyer would be nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court someday, didn’t you? Thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley and the spike in big-ticket litigation (stock options didn’t hurt either), all-star lawyers have opted for general counsel spots over the past several years. It was just a matter of time before a well-qualified corporate counsel landed on a shortlist of Supreme Court nominees. My bets were on Chevron GC Charles James, a former head of the antitrust division at Justice, and PepsiCo GC Larry Thompson, a former deputy attorney general who spearheaded the Corporate Fraud Task Force (and wrote the infamous Thompson memo). In the end, they might have been better representatives of the in-house bar and more qualified Supreme Court justices. While Miers clearly didn’t have the experience necessary for a job at the high court, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t an exceptional in-house lawyer. Here’s why. No leaks. Being a company lawyer often means working long hours for little glory. Miers is a notorious workaholic who is known for keeping her mouth shut. As staff secretary, a job she held for two years during President Bush’s first term, every document that made its way to the Oval Office was supposed to pass by her desk. Yet, there has never been an allegation � in anything I’ve read � that she’s ever leaked sensitive information to further political goals. Knowing her place. When you’re a general counsel, whether it’s for the White House or General Motors, you’re often playing the role of consigliere to a chief executive. It’s easy to get taken with that power. Yes, sending your boss a mushy birthday card is over the top; still, she knows that her job is to be a trusted adviser. “I can understand people not knowing Harriet,” Bush said at a press conference soon after nominating her. He added, “She’s been somebody who just quietly does her job. But when she does it, she performs, you see.” Lack of a personal agenda. When you’re a company GC, your job is to help the business fulfill its mission. If doing that pays off for you personally � more stock options, a bigger bonus, a higher profile within your field � that’s great. But ultimately the job isn’t about you. It’s about serving your client. Miers may not have had the right stuff to be a Supreme Court justice, but she certainly mastered that lesson. In other news: This spring we plan to announce the winner of our Best Legal Department contest. Contenders will need to complete our form, which asks a range of questions about pro bono efforts, diversity, outside counsel management, etc. The contest is open to the legal departments of the Fortune 500. To nominate your department, e-mail our research associate, Tom Broucksou, at [email protected].

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