Vacuums and crickets: The ultimate in-house counsel

By Kim Covert April 30, 201830 April 2018

Vacuums and crickets: The ultimate in-house counsel


How is the ultimate in-house counsel like a Dyson vacuum cleaner?

In both cases, they’re not designed for artistic value, function trumps form. They’re built to do a certain job to a certain standard. And perhaps in both cases, those standards keep changing as technology evolves.

Technology was central to a plenary discussion on Monday at the 2018 CCCA conference called Designing your Future: Building Blocks for the Ultimate In-House Counsel . Participants included Eric Wai, Managing Director, Large Law and Mid-Law for LexisNexis Canada, Philippe Coen, Vice-President and Director, Legal, the Walt Disney Company in France, Joanna Goodman, an author and journalist from the U.K., and Jennifer Riel, an adjunct professor and Managing Director, Knowledge Infrastructure Project at the Rotman School of Management.

Goodman noted that technological smarts are increasingly a key competency for in-house lawyers, with some suggesting that they should be able to code. “Technology is regenerating legal,” says Goodman, but warns about “trying to fit a lawyer-shaped person into a coder-shaped hole.”

The technology that’s been developed for the legal profession is important, says Riel, who notes that nevertheless there’s not a lot of “human data” assigned to them. When you ask “what is the human need for this technology?” and there’s no answer, chances are someone designed it because it was fun to design it, not to answer an actual need.

The Dyson vacuum cleaner is one vision of the ultimate in-house lawyer. Other comparisons made during the panel discussion were free-trade bananas (good) and GMO food (bad).  Coen pointed out that lawyers are like insects – or, at least, like one insect in particular: Jiminy Cricket, the top-hatted insect who served as Pinocchio’s conscience in the Disney movie (and  an appropriate metaphor for a lawyer for Walt Disney).  “In-house is the conscience of the organization,” says Coen. “And the larger the organization, the more of these insects you need.”

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