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When should the in-house attorney handle a divorce for the company's chief executive officer?
Like never, unless the CEO is Elon Musk. That's a fact, not an opinion. Musk's divorce attorney is also general counsel for Tesla.
As every lawyer knows, there are potential conflicts galore in that scenario. But if you can get around them, should you even try?
In this case, Todd Maron is an exception to the "no way" rule. He practiced family law for seven years before he became general counsel, and his firm handled two Musk divorces.
He may actually be better at family law than corporate law, having practiced less than three years in commercial litigation, securities and intellectual property before going in house. He has been at Tesla since 2013.
So Maron passes on the competency question. But the big question is, can he effectively handle company business when he has a duty to Musk personally in a non-corporate matter?
It matters the most to Tesla employees and shareholders, whose financial lives depend on it. If Musk goes down, the company goes down with it.
To his credit, Maron has survived a tumultuous ride at Tesla. He is the fourth general counsel for the company in less than ten years.
It's a Musk problem more than anybody else; he is a notoriously demanding boss. Dealing with that may be what qualifies Maron more than others lawyers.
Ryan Whitacre, managing director of Major, Lindsey & Africa's in-house practice group, said top legal officers come in all stripes. "It's not a one-size-fits-all pattern," he told Bloomberg.