Chris Edwards, Capital Partner, Winston & Strawn
Chris Edwards, Capital Partner, Winston & Strawn

The top management structure within organizations has evolved considerably over the past three decades, with more executive managers reporting to the CEO. With this trend comes the need for general counsel and other in-house counsel to have a strong grasp of business fundamentals.

According to Chris Edwards, partner at Winston & Strawn, the biggest gap between C-suite executives and the next level down is a lack of passion for interests in the company as a whole.

“When you are in executive management you are responsible for the whole company. That is, management is taking responsibility for everything shareholders care about,” Edwards explained in an interview with InsideCounsel.” So often I see deputy GCs who are experts in their own areas of responsibility but, when the conversation moves to a different area of the company, it’s like a switch is turned off and that lawyer shows no interest, concern or understanding of other areas.”

But Edwards – who represents boards of directors, special committees, chief legal officers and financial services companies – says that C-suite-ready counsel are those lawyers who have a healthy curiosity for all things that make the company work well and who work collaboratively with others to help the GC and other senior-level executives be successful in their stewardship of the company.

Edwards will address these issues and more at the upcoming Women, Influence and Power in the Law session, “View From the Top: C-Suite Perspectives on Partnering with Corporate Counsel,” on Oct. 3.

“Our panel will focus on the critical relationships of trust that must exist in a Boardroom for the board to be most effective. Those relationships not only include the general counsel’s relationship with the board and with the CEO, but also the relationships among the Board members,” Edwards added. “Management of a company can help facilitate those good relationships in a variety of ways, but we will also talk about what happens when those relationships don’t exist when a crisis occurs.”

The upcoming Women, Influence & Power in Law conference offers an opportunity for unprecedented exchange with women outside counsel. The event, which runs from Oct. 2-4, will be held at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.