During the General Counsel Fall Conference the first General Counsel Award was presented and over 150 participants discussed the theme: Leadership: giving and receiving Feedback
On April 16th, 2015 over 100 GC discussed the theme of the General Counsel Annual Conference: The General Counsel and reputation and crisismanagement.
How digitalisation will turn your world up side down
“Change before you have to”, a well known quote of Jack Welch of General Electric and the impact of digitalisation on the work of the General Counsel. That was the theme of the General Counsel Annual Conference 2014.
Over 100 GC gathered at KPMG’s headquarters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
‘Where the puck is going, not where it has been – A lesson for the world of law’
The Headquarters of KMPG was an inspiring setting for the 100 participants of our first General Counsel Annual Conference themed ‘Tomorrow’s General Counsel’.
It was an event of knowledge sharing, networking and most of all of the ideas of Richard Susskind. Susskind shared his view on the world of lawyers, and more importantly, the future of the General Counsel and the legal world.
GCs were triggered to ask themselves; Are we ready to change our mindset, to be open to the fact that the world around is changing rapidly and therefore (if looking to be successful in the future) we have to change with this world. Because, as Susskind states repeatedly, we see that technology is changing the world on a daily basis and it is simply impossible that the legal profession is not impacted by this. And so where better to brainstorm on the subject and to share challenges and views with your peers than on this first General Counsel Conference specially organized for this.
Susskind opened his speech by quoting Mr. Wayne Gretzky, who when asked about his success in ice-hockey, said that he skates ‘where the puck’s going, not where it’s been’. Susskind sees this as a ‘lesson for the world of law’ and emphasizes the need for anticipation and development in the minds of lawyers.
We live in a world where pricing strategy is King, budgets are under pressure and there is more and riskier work to undertake than ever before. We all agree that there is a big call for ‘more for less’. This presents a real challenge for in-house lawyers to deliver more work with less people and less expenditure on external counsel.
Susskind explains that he sees the solution in two strategies:
- Efficiency (which focuses on cutting cost); and
- Collaboration (which focuses on sharing costs).
The cost of lawyering, Susskind states, is simply too high. Especially routine / repetitive work comes at a price that is just too high. Why not ‘decompose’ a task and then analyze what the most efficient way is to deal with this? Should we not look at legal work more as the world looks at any manufacturing job? Which part of a legal project, of litigation or of document retention are routine and repetitive and can therefore be done by other (cheaper) professions? Susskind mentioned the option of automatic document assembly as a starting point for negotiations so that focus can be only on the details.
Lessons of the day:
- More than anything we should realize that we should do things differently (and not just price differently). Agreeing on a fixed fee budget with outside counsel is no longer sufficient. Susskind mentioned the example of Rio Tinto where it was decided to outsource part of the legal processes (such as routine contract drafting and review) to a service provider in India as an immediate cost reduction initiative.
- Where the world of law is radically changing, we’d better keep up. Moore’s law that over the history of computing software, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years, tells us that there is no escape so Susskind preaches.
- Make your own future. Own it. Susskind ends his speech by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”
And with these thoughts, the GCs were sent off to the workshops where various partners of GCN hosted sessions themed to the new (digital) legal world and the new ways of working.
The day was concluded by a panel discussion followed by drinks. The panel discussion was led by Christiaan Bramer, Manager Legal Affairs at Heineken Netherlands. Panel members discussed the points made by Susskind earlier in the day with a focus on their respective organisations. They discussed particular incidents in their organization, learnings they took therefrom and learnings they took from trying to implement changes and the key drivers for success.
The panel discussed the importance of vicinity to the business and having the trust of the business. Most of all the panel members agreed that there should be a focus on the realization that funds and resources should be made available to discuss and implement changes (improvements) as the current environment allows for fire fighting and resolutions rather than pro-actively protect and improve businesses and processes. Fire fighting will not help us to own our futures.
And so we believe that the first Annual GC Conference was not only a great success, it also gave us all plenty of food for thought and consideration in our day-to-day jobs. The theme will continue to be on the GCs’ minds and on that of their colleagues. Check where the puck is going… and reinvent.
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GC Fall Conference 2016: October 7th- Innovation for General Counsel
GC Annual Conference 2016: April 16th – Culture and Behavior for General Counsel
2015 GCN Fall Conference: General Counsel Award and Leadership: giving and receiving Feedback
2015 GCN Annual Conference: Reputation & Crisismanagement
2014 GCN Annual Conference: Digitalisation & the GC
2013 GCN Annual Conference: Tomorrow’s General Counsel