PayPal’s Top Lawyer Louise Pentland comments on “Here’s the risk, you decide”

Casey Sullivan of Bloomberg Law‘s Big Law Business posted an interview transcript with PayPal’s Louise Pentland overnight [Australia time]. Overall this is a pretty good interview transcript, but there was one response in particular that Pentland makes that I wanted to bring to your attention. When asked by the team at BLB:

We’ve seen the general counsel role shift into more of a chief legal officer role that interfaces more seamlessly with the business side. Can you speak to that shift?

Pentland replies:

As an in-house lawyer, the best you can get is when you’re integrated with the business team and you’re part of the team making it happen.

I think with PayPal, it was different. It was almost like a law firm inside the company. People didn’t go to the business team meetings. They weren’t on the leadership teams. It was a very strange structure in many ways. People weren’t assigned or aligned by business initiatives. It’s a team of 200 people, so it’s not a small team. I immediately aligned people with their primary responsibility, dedicated to their teams and the businesses they supported. It was so welcome; businesses were crying out for it.

It’s easy for lawyers to sit in the background and say, ‘Here’s the risk, you decide.’ Then you think about how to litigate. But that resulted in what was sometimes, in the worst case, people were lawyer-shopping because they didn’t like an answer. There was no accountability.

(my underlining for emphasis)

It’s that last paragraph in particular that really resonated with me, and one which I think private practice lawyers accustomed to providing non-commercial but legally factual advice to clients should take heed of.

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