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When lawyers run the show

Editor's Box
|Written By Andi Balla

It was interesting to see that lawyers were absent from the lineup of the top candidates running to be Canada’s prime minister in the latest federal elections. This is particularly surprising because so many Canadian prime ministers have been lawyers since the good old days of Sir John A. Macdonald. What is going on? Are Canadian lawyers becoming shy of stepping into the limelight of leadership? I don’t think that’s the case. It is simply a hiatus that gives economists and academics a chance to run the country.

But if politics are not what they used to be for lawyer leadership, the business arena is seeing lawyers increasingly rise through the corporate ranks, past the usual legal advisory roles, and up to the CEO’s office. Lawyers are more and more successfully managing businesses across Canada, as our cover story, “In the big chair,” points out on page 18. For a magazine that caters to an in-house counsel audience, it is interesting to note that lawyers who rose to the top took different paths to get there. In some cases, it did not even involve the company’s legal department. The bottom line is that in business, as in politics, being a lawyer is a big plus in leadership. The knowledge, experience, and critical thinking that come with the study and practice of law seem perfectly suited for chief executives.

Anne Giardini, who rose to be CEO of lumber giant Weyerhaeuser Co.’s Canadian subsidiary after serving as its general counsel, spoke at a recent Toronto panel I attended about the transition to the CEO office. She advises lawyer CEOs to resist the urge to get involved in day-to-day operations of the legal department. You need to strike a balance, she said, and let the in-house counsel do their jobs.

Another type of balance is trying to be struck in matters of free trade when it comes to the complicated process of gaining access to public procurement in an international setting, the subject of our feature on page 24, “Trading with procurements.” We often focus on procurements at municipalities because a lot of procurement work ends up being local, as local companies are better able to compete in price and understand local needs. But the issue of international access to procurements is also very important.

Because they often involve huge sums in public funding, procurements are a touchy subject. Add cross-border politics into the mix, and they become very complicated. So trying to write access to procurements into international free-trade agreements, as Canada and the European Union are currently trying to do, is not an easy matter, but it in the end it could end up being beneficial to all parties involved.

This issue of Canadian Lawyer InHouse is filled with other interesting articles — from a look at whether Canada is doing enough to enforce its anti-bribery laws abroad (page 30) to exploring the impact on the mining industry of the proposed mega merger of the Toronto and London stock exchanges (page 33).

As always, don’t forget to check out our exclusive web content, and do not hesitate to contact us with ideas and feedback.

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