Microsoft has appointed general counsel (GC) Brad Smith as its president and chief legal counsel in a role that will see him take on specific responsibility for privacy, security and digital inclusion at the technology giant.

According to the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella sent an email on Friday 11 September to employees saying that in addition to taking care of Microsoft’s legal work Smith will be responsible for “privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion” and will be responsible for strengthening Microsoft’s external relationships. Smith’s  updated profile confirms that this will be part of his new role.

Smith, who is the first to be appointed to the role of president since 2002, when Rick Beluzzo resigned, will lead a team of business, legal and corporate affairs professionals spanning 55 countries. These teams are responsible for the company’s legal work, its intellectual property portfolio, patent licensing business, and the company’s government affairs, public policy, corporate citizenship and social responsibility work.

Prior to joining Microsoft in 1993, Smith was an associate and later a partner at Covington & Burling. He became general counsel in 2002, having spent three years leading the legal and corporate affairs (LCA) team in Europe, then five years serving as the deputy general counsel responsible for LCA’s teams outside the United States.

His appointment from GC to a broader corporate role is part of a growing albeit still relatively infrequent trend. However many GCs are already responsible for handling issues such as cybersecurity at board level, as emphasised by a survey last year by Legal Business and PwC.