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One of the reasons lawyers get a bad rap is because of their preoccupation with details (remember Bill Clinton’s line, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”? Yes, I voted for him too). But now that I’ve spent six years in this job, I have better insight into why so many of you are, well, anal. When you work with legal documents all day long, important decisions can depend on something as tiny as the placement of a comma. Fair enough. But that’s also why it’s important to hold lawyers accountable when they bungle the little details of their professional life. That includes making sure that they have the proper licensing in the state where they work. As many of you know, 26 states require a special license for lawyers who practice there but are licensed in another state. Yet, our story “A Devilish Detail” (May) found that-as of mid-March-eight of the Fortune 250′s general counsel weren’t officially licensed in the states where they work. (One, Todd DuChene of Solectron, became licensed on March 23.) That story received widespread attention in the business press. As a sign of just how sensitive this issue is, one of those lawyers, Michael DeBacker, was replaced as the chief legal officer of Dana Corp. once his licensing problem became public, according to the company’s April 12 8-K filing (“Tripped Up,” June). Another GC on the list had a colleague call and tell us to run a “retraction” after our original story came out; we were wrong, she said, the GC was licensed. We checked with his state bar association-nothing. We asked the colleague if she’d fax over a copy of his license. We’re still waiting. We didn’t do this research on the Fortune 250′s top lawyers because we wanted to play “gotcha” with high-profile GCs. We did it, in part, to show how crazy these rules are. I’m a big believer that if you’re licensed in one state, that should be sufficient. But the research, and subsequent fallout, is a reminder of how important your jobs are. Whether you are a GC or an assistant GC, you’ve got to get these details-arcane as they are-right. The Law Is in the Details

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