Professor Omari Simmons referenced in Corporate Counsel article

Photo of Professor Omari Simmons

Professor Omari Simmons

“So You Want to Be an In-house Lawyer?” is written by James Dinnage, Corporate Counsel, who is the co-author with Professor Omari Simmons of  a law review article on the in-house role in the modern world (Innkeepers: A Unifying Theory of the In-House Counsel Role [2011], Seton Hall Law Review Vol 41, 77) and references this in the article below.

This is the first of five columns drawn from a one-semester course on the Delaware campus of the Widener University School of Law, teaching students what it’s like to work in a law department and helping them learn some of the skills required to do so.

When I started out as a young in-house counsel at DuPont in the U.K., my first in-house role some 35 years ago, I had almost no idea what was expected of me other than that I would be doing lawyerly-type things. My understanding of how to be a good in-house attorney developed over the years, but I never thought about it in a holistic sense. I just got on with it.

Then, a few years ago, I had the good fortune to be invited by a former colleague—Omari Simmons, now a professor at Wake Forest Law School—to co-author a law review article on the in-house role in the modern world (Innkeepers: A Unifying Theory of the In-House Counsel Role [2011], Seton Hall Law Review Vol 41, 77). We took as our theme the concept of value—value added and prevention of value loss. This was hardly novel in itself, perhaps, but the subject became progressively more interesting as we started to articulate what really differentiated in-house and external counsel.

After the article was published, I began to wonder whether the ideas could be put to practical use. In an environment where employers are clamoring for law schools to provide more practical training, would it be possible to construct a law school course to introduce students to the in-house world? At first it seemed improbable. Every company has its own set of specific needs and circumstances. It is precisely the understanding of the particular business that is the foundation of the unique contribution that an in-house lawyer makes. How could you teach that?

Then, coincidentally, I was presented with the opportunity to propose just such a course for the Wilmington, Del., campus of the Widener University School of Law. Thus challenged, I started to develop a framework based on the premise that if you can teach other practical skills to law students, then there ought to be a way to teach these skills, too. It is really a question of expectations. Nobody expects a fresh graduate to exhibit the experience gained over a career, but there are basic behaviors, skills and knowledge that would help a young lawyer who is lucky enough to find an entry-level in-house position. These could also be useful for young lawyers who go into private practice and find themselves working with in-house counsel.

Over the following months, with encouragement and input from colleagues and friends, a syllabus outline emerged. I would start the course with an introductory unit that would explore the opportunities that (generally) only in-house counsel have to add value or prevent value loss.

Continue reading the full article on Corporate Counsel.

Omari Simmons’ research interests include corporate governance and education policy. Prior to joining the Wake Forest Law School faculty, Professor Simmons worked as corporate counsel for two multinational corporations and as an associate at the law firm of Wilmer Hale in Washington, D.C. Immediately after law school, he clerked for the Honorable E. Norman Veasey, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Professor Simmons is a member of the American Law Institute and is the Executive Director of the Simmons Memorial Foundation (SMF), a nonprofit organization that provides college consulting services to vulnerable students.

View his faculty profile.