Expectations of the General Counsel and the legal function are evolving
The need for legal departments to elevate and expand their role in the business is not new, but the demands being placed on them are, both in type and intensity. In a global study (Future Trends of Legal Services*), a majority of participants said that they had gone through or are planning to significantly review the way in which their legal function operates in order to drive greater efficiency or ensure lawyers are working on higher value tasks.
Important factors that are driving the legal function to transform are globalization, growing regulation and business complexity and the challenge of ‘Doing more with less’. Mandates from CEO’s and other important stakeholders across the business that are driving this shift include:
Companies are continually refining their business structures and CEO’s or CFO’s often lead the transformation initiatives. Legal executives are well positioned to work with the board and business unit leaders in their decision making processes by clearly articulating where the legal department can add value by minimizing risk or identifying opportunity.
Do what you’ve been doing…. Better
As business model transformations are undertaken, refinements to the operating models typically follow – i.e., roles, responsibilities, processes, technology, data and sourcing strategies across the organization. Stakeholders indicate that they expect the legal organization to continue performing its traditional legal work, but to do so in a more efficient and less costly way.
The C-suite can benefit from clearly presented insights into the legal issues, in language those stakeholders understand. How is the legal function generating value for the business? Do we have sustainable processes around compliance and regulatory matters? Are we using technology? Are we in control of spend? The ability to answer questions like these can show stakeholders the value you create for the company while effectively managing your legal issues.
Expand thinking and role
The current environment requires legal professionals to learn about the broader business and how legal considerations integrate into its decision making.
The four faces of the General Counsel
One aspect of the transformation process is the evolving role of the General Counsel. The evolution of the in-house legal function as a trusted business partner results in General Counsel becoming more commercial and having more responsibilities. It seems as if the in-house legal team leaders now have many faces, but can they wear them all at once?
At Deloitte Legal we refer to the ‘Four Faces’ of the General Counsel. The General Counsel today has four roles in the business – as an Operator, Steward, Ambassador and Strategist.
Traditionally the General Counsel’s attention has been absorbed disproportionally by the steward and operator roles, focusing primarily on compliance and regulatory matters, commercial contracting and managing the legal department. Given the external factors impacting companies today, General Counsel’s should enhance dedication to the ambassador and strategist roles to ensure compliance and governance throughout the organization, collaborate with leadership on strategic business decisions and enable growth.
Covering and balancing all four elements will make the General Counsel more effective. Understanding each of these responsibilities and acquiring the necessary skills to master them requires experience, time, stakeholder engagement and the right team in place to support them. It will help General Counsel to determine early on how to balance time and energy across these four critical roles.
Vital to each role is aligning organizational responsibilities and related legal resources with the vision and strategy of the business to generate exceptional results. This includes weighing whether certain legal activities are core to the business and, if not, finding alternative approaches for them to enable focus where it matters most.
In order to help General Counsel balance the four roles for their specific business, Deloitte Legal developed the ‘Legal Lab’. We work with participants to understand the breadth and complexities of the role, helping them to navigate their internal and external stakeholder map and the expectations those stakeholders have. A facilitated full-day work session is presented in a structured and confidential environment, which provides the General Counsel with an opportunity to reconsider their priorities, evaluate their talent, navigate their relationships and develop a clear, actionable plan for success.
* Future Trends for Legal Services is a research study commissioned by Deloitte Legal. Findings are based on 243 quantitative survey responses, and 30 qualitative, in-depth interviews, with in-house legal services purchasers, mainly occupying positions of CEOs, CFOs or General/Legal Counsel.
Over de auteur:
Chris de Jong is the managing partner of Deloitte’s Legal practice in the Netherlands. For more information on the above, please call or mail Chris: firstname.lastname@example.org or Mob: +316 5585 3065