Cheryl Foy

Cheryl Foy

Cheryl Foy is university secretary and general counsel at UOIT in Oshawa, Ontario and can be reached by e-mail at

Column: Practising In-house
Friday, 05 September 2014 09:00

Women general counsel do ‘lean in’

Women general counsel do ‘lean in’Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, has been both embraced and criticized. Around the table, as a newly formed general counsel chapter of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario gathered to meet recently, there was no criticism. The comments were all positive. The phrase “lean in” was used regularly with the expectation that we all understood what was meant. The first president of the chapter, Julia Shin Doi, general counsel at Ryerson University, has quoted the line from the book, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” as being a source of inspiration to her.
Monday, 11 March 2013 09:00

Avoid hiring and keeping a dud

Avoid hiring and keeping a dudThere are two areas in which organizations hiring lawyers need help: assessing the legal skills of applicants for legal roles and evaluating the performance of the lawyer as a legal adviser.
In-house counsel wanted: lawyers without courage need not applyEach time a corporate scandal hits an organization like a tsunami, think about what the in-house lawyers were doing before, when it hit, and after.
Associations in Canada provide the basics but fall short There is, predictably and understandably, more interest in specific issues than in the profession as a whole. In-house lawyers are not unique in focusing on more immediate matters: Have I fulfilled my mandatory continuing professional development obligations? Do I have the information and skills I need to do my job well? Do I feel part of a community? Are my professional networks intact? As I look around however, I see relatively few of us are interested in the evolution of the role of in-house lawyers and I’d hazard a pretty educated guess fewer still care about the political organization of in-house lawyers or the associations and other groups that represent in-house lawyers.
Monday, 10 December 2012 09:14

A call to arms on professional regulation

A call to arms on professional regulationThe in-house practice of law differs dramatically from the practice of the traditional private practice lawyer. I agree with those of you who say internal and external lawyers have more in common than we don’t, but I don’t agree with those who use that as a reason to subsume the in-house lawyers within the larger group for all purposes. This is not a column about “piling on” to criticize outside counsel. I believe we should all work to ensure the relationship between in-house lawyers and private practice lawyers (between all lawyers for that matter) is collegial and respectful.
It is clear that in-house lawyers now play pivotal and influential roles in the corporate world. In his blog, Ben Heineman recently noted: “The general counsel, not the senior partner in the law firm, is now often the go-to counsellor for the chief executive and the board on law, ethics, public policy, corporate citizenship, and country and geopolitical risk. The general counsel is now a core member of the top management team and offers advice not just on law and related matters but helps shape discussion and debate about business issues. Because ‘business in society’ issues pose so much risk (and in some cases opportunity), the general counsel is viewed in many companies as having the same stature as the chief financial officer. Company legal departments are staffed not just by broad generalists but by outstanding specialists in all the areas covered by private firms, including litigation, tax, trade, mergers and acquisitions, labour and employment, intellectual property, environmental law.”
At any given time, it is important to be able to look yourself in the eye and believe you are doing the right thing. The “right thing” is a course of conduct we pursue with few or no reservations. The “right thing” is behaviour we would have no hesitation disclosing to those we want to think well of us. As in-house counsel, we should always be trying to do the right thing for our organizations and ensuring our colleagues do the same.
We use the words “team” and “teamwork” all the time in business. I think back to football analogies and rowing analogies used by my former CEOs. I recently watched the Olympic women’s soccer. After my immense disappointment at the Canadian team’s loss to the United States, the sense of admiration for the grit and determination shown by the Canadian women, the anger and disappointment at the decisions made by the Norwegian referee when Canada was in the lead and showing great momentum, I mused about why we use sports analogies so often in business and why, in so many cases, the analogies do not neatly apply in the business context.
Just before completing this column, I read that the general counsel of Yahoo Inc. announced his resignation effective July 9. The article about the resignation states, “with the general counsel’s impromptu exit, all eyes are back on the company.” As resignation has to be the last resort for any general counsel, I wonder how many people have any appreciation for the internal battles fought and the pressures faced by any GC in the period before he or she makes the decision to resign.
Monday, 11 June 2012 09:49

Calm risk-takers will rule the world

If you’re easily excited and not a mischief-maker, the world of in-house leadership is apparently not for you. This is according to a report produced by a legal search firm that mined its own data on the skill sets of executive candidates as compared with the success of these same candidates when placed into roles within organizations.
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