Q & A with Sanjeev Dhawan

Sanjeev DhawanThe Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM) program is proud to collaborate with the Association of Corporate Counsel - Ontario Chapter (ACC Ontario) on the development of the GPLLM curriculum.  ACC Ontario has specifically advised us on developing the course "Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethics, and the Law". 

We are joined by ACC Ontario Chapter President Sanjeev Dhawan, Senior Legal Counsel at Hydro One, to talk a little more about this partnership.

Q:  How has the role of corporate counsel changed over the past decade and how has that impacted the kinds of issues that are most important today for in-house counsel when it comes to continuing legal education?

A:  In the past, corporate counsel were seen solely as managers of legal files performed by outside counsel.  Now, corporate counsel participate in developing and executing the organization's strategies.  This requires having not only the requisite legal knowledge, but also having a comprehensive and analytical thought process.  While there is no doubt that legal skills are foundational for in-house counsel, not far behind is having solid level business acumen.  The job of corporate counsel is now more hands-on, not simply in terms of ensuring an appropriate legal outcome on an issue, but that the legal outcome aligns well with the organization's objectives. 

Q:  Why are corporate social responsibility and legal ethics such important topics for today's in-house counsel?

A:  As corporate counsel, we represent our organizations to ensure that legal, business, and operational objectives are met. These are a legal department's core functional objectives.  Many corporate counsel have gone a step further and set objectives that transcend traditional legal roles.  ACC Ontario has set out to provide corporate counsel with leadership and support to enable them to pursue goals that contribute to their communities.  Our hope is that this sort of participation translates into legal departments setting appropriate policies that recognize the important role they play in our society.  In the corporate counsel arena, we will see not only emerging professional leaders, but also leaders who are civic-minded.

Corporate counsel often face potential conflicts where it may not be clear who the client is.  In the last decade, we have seen some highly publicized examples of corporate governance failures.  One outcome has been the creation of clearer, more stringent ethical requirements for corporate counsel.  For instance, the code of professional conduct requires corporate counsel to now report "up-the-ladder" where a representative of the organization may have acted improperly. So, legal ethics has taken on more prominence than ever before. 

Q:  What do you see as the short-term and long-term value of a program like the Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM) offered by the U of T Faculty of Law?

A:  The legal world follows the business world.  Corporate counsel work for organizations whose business takes them across borders.  In the short term, the GPLLM program will help to build awareness for corporate counsel that it's not enough for you to have just the technical legal and business skills to make a transnational project succeed; there are a lot of subtleties and matters of practical importance.  How you deal with those issues is sometimes just as important as the technical skills that you bring to the table.  In the long-run, the GPLLM program will help develop professional leaders who possess the thought process and skills to navigate through business and legal issues in a global business environment. 

ACC Ontario serves the needs of close to 500 in-house lawyers who represent more than 200 organizations in Ontario through networking, knowledge sharing, and continuing legal education on behalf of the in-house profession