Strictly business // News

Working for a corporation, but not sure how a corporation works? A new program aims to help lawyers adjust to working in-house

By Diane Peters

On Monday June 17th, 2013


Most new in-house counsel lawyers get hired because of their experience in private practice and their knowledge of the law. Corporate structure, lingo, budgets, management and leadership — these are learned on the job.

Closing this training gap is a soon-to-be launched university-level certificate that aims to get in-house counsel up to speed on corporate life.

Produced as a joint certificate between the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA) and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, the program covers organizational dynamics, basic management skills and advanced leadership.

The Business Leadership Program for In-House Counsel is made up of four different modules, including nine in-person days (most of them on weekends), an online component and a final exam. Students do the program part time and can complete it in about a year.

Tuition will be $9,100, which lawyers will pay for themselves, or employers could also foot the bill.

The CCCA hatched the idea for the program in early 2011 — it came up as part of a brainstorming session on how to help train in-house counsel to keep up with their ever-expanding role.

Grant Borbridge, chair of the CCCA, says in-house counsel are increasingly getting involved in management decisions and corporate strategy.

“We hope the program will help us move toward being on the cutting edge of the changes that are happening in the in-house community,” says Borbridge.

The program will launch in Toronto next February. Looking ahead, Rotman plans to leverage its relationships at business schools across the country to offer editions in cities such as Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal.

But to start, the program is running a pilot this fall with 40 invited students — mostly senior-level in-house lawyers — who will offer feedback on the curriculum.

“We want this to be viewed as something highly desirable for someone who is new to the in-house role as well as those who have years of experience,” says Hugh Arnold, adjunct professor of organizational behaviour and HR management at Rotman and the academic director of the program. “We don’t want to bore them.”

Photo: Courtesy of Rotman School of Management