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In-house lawyers 'must be adaptable'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 02/09/13

What is the future likely to hold for UK general counsel? How is their role likely to change over the last five years?

I can think of a few things - by 2018 I would expect in-house lawyers based in London to be travelling to work in metal snakes deep under the ground that connect disparate parts of the city, while it's also possible that they will be using magic portable animals called 'phones' to communicate with each other from very far away.

If that's not enough dystopian sci-fi crystal-ball-gazing action for you, I'll also predict that the 'computers' used in legal departments will continue to become more powerful, crunching huge amounts of data, but that many low-level workers will mostly take advantage of this monumental power to post sarcastic comments on Facebook and buy discounted bed linen.

Fortunately for you, though, I'm not the only one who has been thinking about the future of the UK's internal legal teams. Speaking to the Lawyer magazine, Nationwide's deputy group general counsel Claire Morris argued that "adaptability" will be key over the next five years.

"Our traditional sphere of influence is changing with the increased focus on Europe. We can no longer rely on our traditional methods of communication within the UK political and regulatory arena and will need to build new relationships and understand how we are able to work effectively to ensure that our voice is heard when European law and regulation is formulated," she explained.

Ms Morris added that in-house functions will need to improve their diversity levels and embrace technological change if they are to retain their relevance, suggesting there are likely to be more specialist roles created as general counsel take on new challenges across different parts of the business sector.

Almost all of the industry experts who responded to the Lawyer's survey felt in-house lawyers are likely to grow in influence within their organisation as we move towards 2018.