Taking the reins

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In-house lawyers have the talent, knowledge and aptitude to become CEOs, writes Kapil Chaudhary

As our businesses become more complex and regulated, there’s a compelling case to be made for lawyer CEOs. There are several examples of successful CEOs with law degrees: Kenneth Chenault (American Express), Richard Parsons (Time Warner), Charles Prince III (Citigroup), Sumner Redstone (Viacom) and Franklin Raines (Fannie Mae) are all examples.

Of the 498 CEOs listed on the 2012 Fortune 500 list, 46 hold law degrees. These included reputable names such as Lloyd Blankfien of Goldman Sachs and John Chambers at Cisco.

Kapil Chaudhary
Kapil Chaudhary

Why can a lawyer make a good CEO? As lawyers, and especially in-house lawyers, we have a 360-degree view of the organizations we serve. In India, one of the first names that comes to mind is Aditya Ghosh – a lawyer who made a great transition from in-house counsel to CEO of Interglobe Aviation, the company that runs IndiGo, one of India’s most successful airlines. Aditya worked with Indian law firm J Sagar Associates before joining Interglobe. He was heavily involved in all the initial paperwork to get the airline off the ground and founder Rahul Bhatia liked his work so much that he asked Aditya to run IndiGo’s operations.

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Kapil Chaudhary is the corporate counsel for India and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation region at Autodesk India. He has previously held in-house roles with IBM, Schlumberger Asia Services and Star News. He can be reached at kapil.chaudhary@autodesk.com.