A new hot button for corporate watchdogs and other adversaries is the bar license status of in-house counsel. In August, Richard Poulson, general counsel of Smithfield Foods Inc., came under attack by representatives of Smithfield’s labor union, who provoked questions about Poulson’s Virginia Bar license, which apparently was no longer valid. Beginning in October, political blog Milwaukee World made surprise calls to numerous Wisconsin companies to “check up” on the license status of in-house lawyers. Blogging the results, Milwaukee World claimed it “blew the lid off of the unlicensed general counsel racket,” and that unlicensed status is reason for corporate clients to lose the attorney-client privilege.

The Virginia Bar conducted a disciplinary investigation of Poulson, ultimately finding that he violated no state rules. Milwaukee World reports that Wisconsin licensing authorities will investigate the cases “uncovered” there.

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