Creating a new legal department can be daunting and fraught with challenges

Giselle Basanta says GCs need to control the money if they are to control legal services

By Julius Melnitzer | May 25, 2023

The Association of Corporate Counsel’s guide on establishing an in-house law department begins with a warning.

“Whether the attorney hired to create the organization’s first in-house legal department has served as in-house counsel previously or not, creating the new in-house legal function can be both daunting and fraught with challenges,” the authors write.

The reasons are self-evident: first GCs must create a position that provides legal guidance to the company in the context of business advice and must usually do so without precedent, established structures or guidance.

According to Giselle Basanta, the first general legal counsel at Toronto’s George Brown College, having an industry background gave her a leg up when she started the job in the spring of 2022.

“It really helped that I had a background at academic institutions, including school boards and universities.”

It also helped that the institutions at which she worked, including Toronto Metropolitan University (then Ryerson University), the Toronto District School Board and the Peel District School Board, had small legal teams, which she helped develop in some cases. MORE . . .


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