Dan Currell, '97: Counseling General Counsel

Dan Currell, ’97, has a job that many lawyers might covet: He tells general counsel (GCs) how to do their jobs. As a Managing Director of the General Counsel Roundtable, one of the research practices of the Corporate Executive Board, he works with research teams that study issues of concern to GCs, and then, more than forty times a year all over the world, he leads day-long seminars presenting to assembled GCs what the research teams have learned.

Currell describes his work as “an ideal non-lawyering application of a University of Chicago Law School education.”

“We focus on the management problems that GCs face,” he says. “It’s analytical and creative, but it’s also practical: we find out what’s really going on in GCs offices, what works the way it’s meant to and what doesn’t.”

Those findings, in the best Chicago tradition, can be eye opening. One study showed the non-legal costs to companies of legal compliance failures to be almost three times as great as their legal costs. Findings can be provocative and counterintuitive: one Roundtable report headline, for example, asserts “Excessive Focus on Quality of Legal Work Increases Legal Liability.” Always, the insights are accompanied by extensive best-practices analyses and recommended strategies for better management practices.

Currell found the job through a Law School classmate. “I’d been working at a firm for a couple of years when Laurence Herman sent me an email that said, in effect, ‘Hey buddy, I’ve got the perfect job for you,’” Currell recounts, “and he was so right.”

An added benefit for Currell is that although the company is headquartered in Washington D.C., since 2004 he has been able to make his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he and his wife have family roots. “With all my traveling and with the wonders of modern telecommunications, it doesn’t really matter where I’m based,” he explains, “and we like bringing up the kids in this environment.”

General counsel are clearly recognizing the value of the Roundtable’s work: its membership has grown from about 50 when Currell joined the organization in 1999 to more than 700 today.

“Chicago taught me how to think creatively about legal and economic problems. And that’s been fundamental to my whole career,” Currell says. “I like to think that people like Richard Epstein and so many other great professors who taught me how to think like a true Chicagoan would be pleased with what I’m doing.”