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Most general counsel believe that having a lawyer sit on a company’s board of directors improves corporate governance and encourages less corporate risk-taking, according to a new study.

“The General Counsel Excellence Report 2013” [PDF], released Monday, also found that one in five general counsel surveyed aspired to sit on the boards of companies, either their own or others’. Of those responding, only nine percent actually sit on their company’s board.

The research project was conducted by news site Global Legal Post, in association with legal referral network TerraLex. It surveyed 270 chief legal officers globally about a range of issues.

While GCs often simultaneously serve as corporate secretaries, at least one expert cautions legal chiefs about wishes to be on their boards. “There may be good reasons to appoint GCs to subsidiary boards, a practice which, while not infrequent, must be carefully balanced against the GC’s other priorities and overall workload,” warns Jörg Thierfelder, a former Deutsche Bank in-house counsel in the U.S. and now a consultant with Egon Zehnder in Hamburg, Germany.

The survey found the GC’s leadership role often increases during emergencies. If a crisis occurred, the general counsel was in charge in 16 percent of companies polled, while the CEO was in charge in 52 percent.

However, the general counsel was very involved (37 percent) or involved (53 percent) in helping with crisis management planning.

Some 60 percent said the GC works with the company’s communications department all the time. But on “strategic” communications, such as during a crisis, that number jumps to 83 percent.

Most general counsel polled also said:

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