01 August 2018

A tale of two lawyers: why be a general counsel?

As general counsel seek to raise status internally, why not go to the top instead? Two lawyers have taken the high road.

The top lawyers in firms may not be in the legal department, as shown by US tech giant Google promoting its top lawyer to run global affairs, and a female lawyer with private practice experience being appointed boss of Macquarie Bank in Australia.

The public face

Google has promoted its general counsel Kent Walker to senior vice president of global affairs. In his new role, Mr Walker will oversee Google's policy, legal, trust and safety, and corporate philanthropy teams. The general counsel role has not yet been filled. As big tech companies face increased scrutiny domestically and globally, Google's general counsel has taken a greatly enhanced role in the firm. Mr Walker has been promoted from the position of senior vice president and general counsel. He will be the public face of the firm on a range of broader issues like the future of work, artificial intelligence, and the role of tech companies in society. In his previous role, Mr Walker has already been involved in many of the activities that his new role entails. He contributed to crafting ethical principles for artificial intelligence published by Google in June, and recently delivered a speech advocating global surveillance law reform. His previous role as general counsel managing Google's legal team has not yet been filled.


The lawyer ceo

A former Blake Dawson lawyer has landed Australia’s top investment banking job. Shemara Wikramanayake is to become the new managing director and CEO of Macquarie Group, effective 30 November. Ms Wikramanayake will become the first ever female chief executive of the financial services company. She takes over the top job from Nicholas Moore, who confirmed his impending retirement late last week. In addition to her new role as managing director and CEO, Ms Wikramanayake will also be appointed to the Boards of Macquarie Group Limited and Macquarie Bank Limited. She joined Macquarie in 1987, having previously been a corporate solicitor at Blake Dawson Waldron, a Melbourne-based firm Blake Dawson (est. 1841) which then rebranded to Ashurst Australia.