Add another item to the long list of responsibilities handled by the general counsel and her team: acting as the voice and face of the company to the media. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on the blog, in-house counsel are more and more being recognized as the trusted partner for the business. With the onset of the recent NSA privacy scandal, that role is broadening as general counsel find themselves representing their companies and sharing their message with the public. I recently heard an NPR report which included a story featuring David Drummond of Google requesting the government’s permission to publish the number of requests it receives to provide user’s information in a very public-facing way.
As the public and the media become increasingly better informed and aware of privacy issues and how their information is being shared, it seems likely that the General Counsel will be increasingly called on to answer tough questions in the public forum. This is particularly true for technology and media corporations that have stockpiles of consumer data. This recent article from James Haggerty, an attorney and communications consultant, provides some great insight for GCs to follow if they find themselves in such a position.
Interestingly, these companies have joined together, likely at the advice of their general and staff counsel, to formalize their request in a letter to President Obama. Perhaps this move will help curtail the need for the GC to remain in the public spotlight for long regarding the NSA scandal, but it’s probably a safe assumption that this is a trend that will continue given the recent run of whistleblower activities.