Research Finds Companies Where Chief Legal Officer is Also Corporate Secretary Experience Fewer Incidents of Shareholder Litigation, Regulatory Violations, and Regulatory Penalties

Winning submission of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s competition analyzes the impact on legal risk when combining the corporate secretary and chief legal officer roles.

Washington, DC, April 30, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) today announced its selection for the inaugural winner of the Carl Liggio Memorial Paper Competition. The winning submission examines the legal risk implications at companies where the Chief Legal Officer (CLO) is also the Corporate Secretary, showing that the upside impact is significant, especially when combined with an independent board of directors. These companies experience fewer incidents of shareholder litigation, regulatory violations, and regulatory penalties.  

“While the evolution and expansion of the CLO role is well documented, including in ACC’s Chief Legal Officers Survey, there remains little quantitative analysis related to outcomes,” said Veta T. Richardson, ACC president & CEO.  “This research provides a convincing argument that organizations where the CLO is also the Corporate Secretary are less likely to experience future legal troubles.”   

“ACC is excited to announce this study as the first-ever winner of the Carl Liggio Memorial Paper Competition, and we hope this will encourage an increase in much-needed scholarly analysis of today’s chief legal officer role and organization-wide impact,” Richardson continued. “I want to congratulate the paper’s authors and thank the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware for their partnership on this effort.” 

The competition, named in honor of Carl Liggio who was a cofounder of ACC and served as its second president, offers a $20,000 prize to encourage academic research of how management reporting structures impact the well-being of organizations, particularly management structures involving the role of the chief legal officer.  

“This study is an important look at how a dual chief legal officer and corporate secretary role can provide benefits to a company’s C-suite and board; but for those of us who already serve in a dual role, the information in it has long been evident,” said Joanna M. Totsky, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at The Toro Company and a member of the ACC global board of directors. “Hopefully, the results of this study will encourage companies of all sizes to consider combining these two important roles as they make critical decisions about their future.”  

The study was authored by Jagadison K. Aier from the Costello College of Business at George Mason University, Justin Hopkins from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, and Syrena Shirley from Columbia Business School.  

Professor Shirley presented the winning paper at the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance’s annual symposium on March 15 at the University of Delaware.  

“My co-authors and I are honored to win this inaugural competition and to have our work recognized by the Association of Corporate Counsel,” said Professor Shirley. “We were motivated to conduct this research to contribute to an important, but to date largely unexplored, area of study examining the behavior of corporations with the commonly combined Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary roles. The CLO has a pulse on the entire organization and must operate proficiently in both legal and business functions, and more scholarly analysis of how and when they are most effective could pay dividends. Our paper is currently under review at a premier peer-reviewed academic journal.”  

Please contact Dan Weber,, if interested in the full study.


About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the premier global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other organizations through information, education, networking, and advocacy. For more than 40 years, ACC has set the standard for in-house counsel and raised awareness regarding the value of the chief legal officer in the C-suite and boardroom. With more than 45,000 members employed by over 10,000 organizations and spanning 100+ nations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel® remains the foundation for ACC’s market leadership. For more information, visit and follow ACC on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  


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