By Cornelis “Kees” van Ophem, Naveen Tuli, and Tanja Albers Globalization has dramatically changed the role of the general
counsel over the past few decades. At present, the global GC often has a seat at the management table, is seen as
a trusted partner to the C-suite and board, and is increasingly responsible for enhancing the business, financial, and
risk management strategies of a corporation and the integrity of its operations. The breadth of work for today’s GC
continues to grow — encompassing not only traditional legal roles, but also expanding to include complex compliance,
intellectual property, data privacy, risk management, talent management, organizational development, and other
matters. Add the challenge of overseeing a wide range of issues across multiple time zones, coupled with the need to
understand the political and cultural climate of each region, and the role becomes enormous. Today’s global GC may
encounter issues ranging from corrupt regimes and rule of law matters, to the safety of employees, ethical matters,
company culture, organization, incentives and processes, cybersecurity, fair competition, corporate governance,
corporate social responsibility, and compliance among different forums and venues.
■ ■ Line of sight. In order to get a
handle on the changing regulatory landscape, general counsel
must invest in experienced
local, legal, and compliance
personnel. This allows for
larger companies to get ahead
of enforcement and compliance matters by preventing
issues before they arise.
■ ■ Finding the best. Legal
teams must now demonstrate a mastery of
their company’s business
dealings. As a result,
hiring decisions become
a critical skill for leaders in a legal function.
■ ■ Cost-saving measures. As
pressure mounts to keep costs
down and efficiencies up, general counsel should reevaluate
expectations placed on hiring
outside counsel and consider if
in-house counsel can provide
the same or similar value.
■ ■ Confidence in culture.
General counsel are steadily
gaining a seat at the table,
and should use this opportunity to expand and solidify
the legal department’s position within the company.