Clement, Verrilli, Heineman and Todd Headline 2017 Corporate Counsel Institute

March 17, 2017 —

What does it mean to be a great lawyer working in house? Ask Benjamin W. Heineman, former general counsel at General Electric, who kicked off Georgetown Law’s 2017 Corporate Counsel Institute (CCI) with a look at the “inside counsel revolution” — meaning the shift in power from outside counsel to those on the inside. Heineman, the author of a recent book on the subject, outlined some “integrity-first” ideals for corporate counsel living this revolution: Be an accountable leader.  Create a culture of integrity. Be a partner to the CEO, but also a guardian of the company.

“The dilemma is pretty stark: we have to avoid being an inveterate naysayer and being excluded from meetings, or [always saying yes] and being indicted…” Heineman said. “The partner role can never be allowed to undercut the guardian role.”

The Institute, hosted by Georgetown Law’s Continuing Legal Education, turned up the political heat as NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd shared his thoughts on today’s political landscape. Our politics are broken, Todd said, when not governing becomes a useful political strategy. 

Regarding the “obstruction-only strategy that Republicans went on for the last six years…” Todd said, “if Democrats win control of the House in [2018] doing the same thing, reinforcing that this is the easiest way back into power, then we are going to be in this never ending loop… We’ve got to get out of this loop. At some point I think the voters will revolt on this.”

SCOTUS

A Supreme Court update with current and former solicitors general — regardless of political affiliation — has long been a highlight of CCI during its 21-year run. While this tradition took some adjusting in 2017, now-former SG Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., and former SG Paul D. Clement (F’88) returned once again to Hart Auditorium. The pair has been scheduled to appear at CCI every year since 2012.

Professor Steven H. Goldblatt of Georgetown Law’s Supreme Court Institute led a discussion of the confirmation hearings of Neil Gorsuch, the effect of eight justices, and a host of securities and patent matters. The panel agreed that Gorsuch, in Verrilli’s words, “checks all the boxes” when it comes to qualifications.

“There’s no way, I think, that Judge Gorsuch or anybody else could move the Court appreciably to the right, so in that sense, this is an opportunity to preserve the preexisting status quo…,” said Clement, who called the nominee “eminently qualified.”

“Obviously, a lot of folks from the Democratic side of the aisle are still upset about the way that Senate Republicans processed the nomination of Judge Garland, who was also eminently well qualified…,” he said. “So that’s the dynamic that will take place on the other side of First Street next week.” 

During the course of the two-day conference, participants gave a standing ovation to Georgetown Law’s Larry Center (L'74), assistant dean of Academic Conferences and Continuing Legal Education. Center retires in 2017 after more than 30 years. “He is one of our principal visionaries… he is the lifeblood of this Institute,” said CCI Program Co-chair Ann M. Kappler. “It is really to his credit that we come together every year.”