Today we're featuring one of the most recent additions to our repository with Professor Charles K. Whitehead's January 2014 article "Lawyers and Fools: Lawyer-Directors in Public Corporations" appearing in the Georgetown Law Review and co-authored with Lubomir P. Litov and Simone M. Sepe of the University of Arizona.

From the abstract:

The accepted wisdom—that a lawyer who becomes a corporate director has a fool for a client—is outdated. The benefits of lawyer-directors in today’s world significantly outweigh the costs. Beyond monitoring, they help manage litigation and regulation, as well as structure compensation to align CEO and shareholder interests. The results have been an average 9.5% increase in firm value and an almost doubling in the percentage of public companies with lawyer-directors.

This Article is the first to analyze the rise of lawyer-directors. It makes a variety of other empirical contributions, each of which is statistically significant and large in magnitude. First, it explains why the number of lawyer-directors has increased. Among other reasons, businesses subject to greater litigation and regulation as well as firms with significant intangible assets, such as patents, value a lawyer-director’s expertise. Second, this Article describes the impact of lawyer-directors on corporate monitoring. Among other results, it shows that lawyer-directors are more likely to favor a board structure and takeover defenses that potentially reduce shareholder value—balanced, however, by the benefits of lawyer-directors, such as the valuable advice they can provide. Finally, this Article analyzes the significant reduction in risk-taking and the increase in firm value that results from having a lawyer on the board.

Our findings fly in the face of requirements that focus on director independence. Our results show that board composition—and the training, skills, and experience that directors bring to managing a business—can be at least as valuable to the firm and its shareholders.

For more on the latest scholarly articles from Professor Whitehead and the rest of the law school faculty visit the repository at Scholarship@Cornell Law.

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