There’s little doubt that the role of the General Counsel is expanding and this is an area we have covered in detail recently. According to a recent study company executives want it that way. Research from professional services and auditing firm KPMG International ‘Through the Looking Glass: How Corporate Leaders View the General Counsel of Today and Tomorrow’ found executives said that they want their GCs to take on far more responsibility outside the legal realm.
Such responsibilities including serving as board members, functioning as ethics officers, developing corporate social responsibility and providing leaders with strategic business advice. On top of that, the survey found that GCs now play a more crucial role following a data breach, they are expected to developing a breach response strategy, and handle any harm to the company’s public image.
According to the study, the five key risks that GCs need to focus on are contracts, reputation, regulation, litigation and technology-related risks. While, somewhat unsurprisingly, managing regulation ranked first, but technology-related risks came second. Business leaders also identified five main attributes which represent today’s ‘best GCs’; business leader; risk manager; technology champion; key communicator and builder of corporate culture.
The survey, which was based on interviews with senior executives, found that corporate leaders agree with the views of GCs expressed in previous surveys; that the chief legal officer is rising to the challenge of juggling the concerns of the business and of the law. According to KPMG Advisory and Investigations Partner, Phillip Ostwalt, “Companies need GC who will manage the legal function as a business that is integrated into the overall strategy of the enterprise. Exceptional legal skills are a given; it is the other attributes that will help them to reinforce their business value.”
As GCs’ involvement in business matters broadens, it is clear that the role of GCs is becoming ever more ‘pervasive’ in the company. Which is certainly good news for GCs who are keen to demonstrate the value of their knowledge and strategic value to the business.