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Instilling a Culture of Compliance & Ethics in Organizations Today

Michele DeStefano Beardslee, a speaker at the marcus evans Corporate Counsel Summit Fall 2011, on instilling a culture of compliance and ethics.

Interview with: Michele DeStefano Beardslee, Associate Professor, University of Miami School of Law


General Counsel can and should be the gatekeepers of corporate conscience for their clients, says Michele DeStefano Beardslee, Associate Professor, University of Miami School of Law. “It is in this dual role that they can make a difference,” she adds.

A speaker at the upcoming marcus evans Corporate Counsel Summit Fall 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada, September 15-17, DeStefano Beardslee talks about the case for and against separating compliance from the legal department, and how Counsel can instill a culture of compliance and ethics in their organization today.

How is the corporate legal market evolving?

Michele DeStefano Beardslee: The market has changed dramatically. It has gotten more complex, more global, more technological, and more regulated. Further, the difference between what is business and what is law is now even blurrier. Therefore, the corporate lawyers of today have to figure out how to add value and doing so requires a different skill set than that of the typical corporate lawyer 20 years ago.

How has the role of compliance changed?

Michele DeStefano Beardslee: There is increased emphasis on compliance and an influx of new regulation. Combine that with globalization and it becomes clear that compliance officers face a lot of challenges.

As a result, regulators, lawyers, and scholars are increasingly attempting to define ‘compliance’ and more and more companies have dedicated executives appointed to be in charge of it. There are no official requirements that companies separate the compliance function from the legal department, but the unofficial stance of the government seems to be that compliance should be run separately. And many companies are doing just that.

What strategies for meeting global compliance challenges would you recommend?

Michele DeStefano Beardslee: Those who oversee compliance can never be sure that all employees in every role are in line; this is not their job.

Instead, the important role for the chief compliance officer is to instill a culture of compliance and ethics in the organization. How people are incentivized to behave in a moral or ethical way may be different from how they are motivated to perform routine tasks.

Creating such a culture where individuals will arrive at the best decisions on their own is a challenge. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Although separating compliance from the legal department sends out a message of its importance, there are risks involved in doing so. However, what is most important is how compliance is approached.

I would recommend that the executive who oversees clients should oversee ethics as well; compliance and ethics should not be separated.

How can General Counsel ensure the organization maintains a competitive edge?

Michele DeStefano Beardslee: I have worked on a project where we tried to determine how in-house Counsel decide to hire outside Counsel. One of our key findings was that in order to be successful, General Counsel have to think about their organization’s relationship with outside law firms and other legal service providers holistically.

Successful General Counsel embrace the idea of a relationship where risks and benefits are shared between the corporation and the service providers.

Any final comments?

Michele DeStefano Beardslee: General Counsel can and should be the gatekeepers of corporate conscience for their corporate clients. It is in this dual role that they can make a difference.

Author: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

Contact: Akeelah Clarke, Marketing Manager
Tel: 246 627 3761

About the Corporate Counsel Summit Fall 2011

This unique forum will take place at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, Las Vegas, Nevada, September 15-17, 2011. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on monitoring new regulations, health care reform, and exploring alternative fee arrangements with outside Counsel.

For more information please send an email to or visit the event website 

Complementing our summit format, the Legal Network – marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional trends and breakthrough innovations. Lend an ear to fellow experts and live news from our events on our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts!


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Please note that the summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, think tanks, seminars and one-on-one business meetings. For more information, please visit 

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