Danielle Goldstone discusses how the General Counsel role in the US is becoming increasingly strategic and links this in with a general shift from using external legal services.
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Responsibilities mount for US General Counsels

Posted by: Clare Butler 05/07/16

It is clear that in recent years, the role of general counsel has shifted away from legal counselor and towards strategic advisor. As the scope of risk management and corporate governance continues to expand, so do the responsibilities of in-house professionals, and as the reach of the GC grows, many organizations are increasingly finding that corporate general counsels are uniquely positioned to provide legal, ethical and objective insights to broad strategic decisions. 

The US’s rapidly evolving regulatory environment has played a crucial part in shaping the role of the ‘modern’ in house professional and has led to an increase in the number of general counsels assuming senior management positons. Alongside an upswing in ever more complex M&A transactions, the increasing complex domestic, and indeed global, regulatory environment has led to businesses relying on the legal and ethical expertise of GCs for strategic advice. Aside from the customary responsibilities, the role of a GC is also expanding into a number of other critical business areas, such as corporate governance and crisis management.

In addition to the increased responsibility of the GC, many are finding that their workload is growing as a significant proportion of US businesses are retaining work in house and only seeking external counsel when intricate work is being undertaken. This ties in with our recent coverage of Deloitte's report showing that a significant amount of General Counsel are reviewing their legal services to meet mounting and changing demands.

Shifting the workload in-house not only reduces reliance on external lawyers with high hourly rates, but is also strategically advantageous. General counsels are more likely to consider the business as a whole and will have a better understanding of its key objectives, and so are more likely to translate them effectively.

As the role of the general counsel continues to expand over the coming years, it is highly likely that lawyers with the ability to work outside of their specialism and with strong judgement and high intensity are most likely to succeed.

Tagged In: General counsel, USA
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