Accessibility Links

In-house lawyers 'given broader workload'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 05/02/13

There are few certainties in life. Emotions are transient, brought in and out by the tide, flitting through the world like a breeze. None of us really know anything, yet we carry on regardless, pushing our way through the waves, helplessly. One small certainty to which we can all cling, however, is that in-house lawyers will find their workload expanding over the coming years as a lack of funding makes firms attempt to use their resources more efficiently.

The global financial crisis five years ago, as well as making many businesses cut back on their spending, led to a slew of regulations that saw in-house counsel graduate from being a small part of business guidance to becoming central to the corporate decision-making process.

While this has had a good effect on the role in terms of prestige, meaning that top in-house positions are now as competitive and as sought-after as roles within major private practice companies, it has also led to some changes in how lawyers do their job, reports the Financial News.

Charlie Beauchamp, general counsel for corporate and investment banking and capital markets origination at Citigroup in London, described the in-house role as being more critical than ever - especially as private practice companies are now being asked to provide more guidance for less cash.

"We add value by understanding the legal, political and regulatory environment. We have to be close to the business because of the nature of what we do, and we also have to be close to the risk organisation and understand the risk appetite of the firm," he explained.

The traditional in-house role has always been to provide execution support on transactions and to ensure the employer has robust controls, Mr Beauchamp suggested.

However, recent years have seen the latter move into a central position, especially given the complex regulatory environment faced by many firms as they attempt to make their mark on the global business world and deal with a plethora of different legislatory codes.

Bert Suer, head of investment banking legal for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at UBS, added that "post-crisis" the emphasis has been on avoiding risk in the broader sense rather than focusing on solely legal concerns.

"Now there is a real recognition we need to perform more of a challenge function. That requires a change in mindset for both the in-house lawyers and the front office," he argued.

Last month a report from Consero indicated that many in-house legal teams are facing shrinking budgets, meaning they need to re-use teabags and only have three biscuits each throughout the working day.