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Regulatory landscape 'impacting GCs'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 19/11/13

General counsel (GC) are increasingly being forced to deal with heavy levels of regulation as the EU and local governments across the globe take steps to ensure businesses are kept  in check, according to a number of experts.

While dealing with this has always been a function of the GC role, it appears that - at least for those working for British firms - helping companies avoid falling foul of the rules is becoming a full-time job.

Speaking to Legal Week, Joanna Talbot, BAE Systems' chief counsel for compliance and regulation, warned that lawyers should not get too bogged down in dealing with regulatory issues.

"Regulatory and compliance lawyers can't just be specialists in one or two areas. There is a trend towards the diversification of the role," she explained.

This means dealing with financial and non-financial risk, helping companies avoid any reputational damage, making the coffee, helping clean the windows on the Friday of each month, driving the chief executive's children to school and so on.

It is unfortunate that this opening-up of the GC position has come at the same time as new regulations have placed a major burden on in-house lawyers, but that is what appears to have happened.

Speaking ahead of a major conference on corporate governance organised by Legal Week, Ms Talbot said: "A few years ago, discussion would all be around anti-bribery and corruption, whereas now the broader programme reflects the breadth of risk management on in-house lawyers' desks."

For those lawyers that didn't enter the profession simply for the easy life and the chance to print some really fancy business cards, this shift could prove to be a major boon - after all, GCs are becoming ever-more important to the corporate landscape.

However, they will need to show willing to learn new skills and develop their talents if they are to impress, especially as bonuses in the industry are likely to increase over the coming years and attract a wider array of workers.