Law Practice

Unlicensed Gen'l Counsels are Unusual

Does a general counsel of a corporation have to be a licensed lawyer? To many, the answer to that question would seem to be a no-brainer: Yes.

But a small number of general counsels have chosen not to maintain active law licenses, and are now fielding questions in the wake of recent magazine articles pointing out their status, writes the Fulton County Daily Report in a story reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

The latest to come to light is Horace “Hod” Nalle, who has been general counsel for Duluth, Ga.-based Merial, a producer and marketer of animal pharmaceuticals, since the company was established in 1997. However, his Pennsylvania bar license has been inactive since 2000, reports Corporate Counsel magazine. He doesn’t see a problem with this fact (although he applied this year to return to active status), and his company and the Georgia State Bar are not complaining about his lack of a law license, the Daily Report says.

But the general consensus among experts is that in-house counsel, including general counsels, should be licensed. “In order to style yourself as a general counsel, you need to be admitted as a lawyer and in good standing in some jurisdiction,” Frederick J. Krebs, president of the Association of Corporate Counsel, tells the Daily Report. Some states require in-house lawyers to be licensed in that specific state, while others, including Georgia, permit out-of-state licensing.

As discussed in an April post, Corporate Counsel previously reported that eight general counsels lacked law licenses apparently required in their jurisdictions. Of them, one lacked a license entirely: Arthur Hipwell of Humana Inc. He said he let his Kentucky law license lapse in 1985 because he is making business decisions rather than legal decisions for the Louisville-based company, but he is reportedly now seeking to return to licensed status.

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