Sunday, January 7, 2007
DaimlerChrysler has announced that its long time general counsel, Bill O'Brien, is retiring, and his successor will be Gerd Becht, who is described over at Law.com as follows:
Becht, who is German, spent much of his career with multinational companies, including 13 years at General Motors Europe AG, three years at Banque Paribas and eight years at AEG Aktiengesellschaft. Going to DaimlerChrysler made sense: "If you look at my résumé, there's a strong emphasis on international legal education and business alignment."
Alan Childress is our resident scholar on comparative legal professions, and my observations are anecdotal, but I would have been shocked to have seen this fifteen years ago when I was heavily involved in negotiating deals with German companies. My impression then was that continental lawyers were more academically inclined than business-oriented, removed from the business people themselves, and viewed by their clients essentially as scriveners, not counselors. While there were exceptions (the general counsel of Robert Bosch GmbH, Dieter Berg, was a dynamite lawyer under anybody's standards), Becht's view of cross-cultural and cross-functional linkage was certainly not the norm in European legal circles.
In the meantime, oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?