The Evolving Role of General Counsels in the Corporate Legal Department

by | Nov 16, 2017

The Evolving Role of General Counsels in the Corporate Legal Department

At the recent ACC Annual meeting, I noticed that the role of General Counsels (GCs) appears to be expanding after my team and I met several corporate GCs who seemed to be taking a new path. Each of the attorneys we spoke to had made a successful career for themselves in the legal world but were currently pursuing high-level business training. Also, a recent article featured the former GC for Chubb Corp who explained that “the GC has a critical obligation to find out how and where a company makes its money and where it might grow.” Why is there a recent emphasis on business education for established legal professionals? The shifting role of GCs seems to be directly tied to changes within corporations, how they are changing their view on legal departments, and what part GCs should play in the overall management of an organizations’ business processes.

Managing Dual Roles

Over the last several years, there’s been a definite shift in the way that corporate legal departments are viewed. With an increased emphasis on return on investment (ROI), companies want to know not just how well their in-house legal team is managing their legal activities, but also how their work is contributing to the well-being of the organization as a whole. In other words, legal departments are being asked to demonstrate how they improve the business. This can be a tough concept to quantify, which is why more and more GCs are recognizing the value of business training.

As the role of corporate legal departments evolves, so do the roles of GCs. Corporations are now demanding that their GC understands their business. As a leader within the organization, a GC is expected to attend business and board meetings, help to develop strategy, read the same targeted publications, and play an active role in the management of the business. As the role of GCs shifts from legal adviser to colleague and fellow business strategist, leaders of corporate legal departments are also recognizing the value of gaining a high level of business acumen. GCs have quite a bit of value to offer to the organization beyond legal advice. Their legal expertise, along with knowledge of their industry and corporation and how it operates, make them go-to business strategists that can help organizations manage risks and keep costs low. In this leadership position, they need to think strategically and bring both legal and business knowledge.

Demonstrating Value

Even GCs who are already taking an active role in the operations of their company’s business may still need to prove their department’s worth. This is due to organizations now pressing for greater proof of ROI from all units, including the legal department. GCs have been asked to thoroughly review their department and determine how well they manage risk, matters, legal spend, and their relationships with outside vendors and counsel.

This proof requires high-level reporting, which can be easily provided through access to relevant, accurate data. One of the reasons that LexisNexis CounselLink® focuses so intently on the quality of its analytics and the reporting is because we understand the type of information that corporate legal departments are looking for and why they need it. GCs not only need data; they need the right data and in a format that’s easily digestible. Great analytics has the power to demonstrate just how much of an impact corporate legal departments are making on overall business operations. When GCs provide this data, they prove their business acumen, solidifying the importance of their role within the organization.

As GC roles continue to evolve, LexisNexis CounselLink will remain at the forefront of change through innovation, developing the tools and systems that corporate legal departments and their GCs rely on to manage their department efficiently and prove its value to the organization. By providing dedicated support, maximum visibility, and interactive dashboards that let GCs gain immediate insight into the operations of their legal departments, we are helping legal leaders become business leaders.

Meghan Frank

Meghan Frank

Meghan Frank is the Senior Marketing Manager for enterprise software solutions at LexisNexis Legal & Professional, which includes the InterAction Customer Relationship Management and CounselLink® Enterprise Legal Management solutions. She has an extensive background in leading marketing for enterprise technology solutions, focusing on legal technology for most of her career. Meghan holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Bachelor’s degree in marketing from University of Minnesota.

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