GCs of the Future Part I -- 'The Fearless Leader'

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on January 06, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As corporations expand globally, the skill set for General Counsel is constantly evolving. The Association of Corporate Counsel conducted a survey of board members, GCs, CEOs and executive recruiters to find out what skills the "21st Century General Counsel" will need.

This week, we'll be exploring the ACC's findings in a three-part series. First up, we look at the importance of the GC as the "fearless leader" of the legal department.

GC Value -- GC v. Director Perceptions

Not surprisingly, corporate directors and GCs don't see eye-to-eye on areas that GCs provide the most value. In large part, this may be due to the fact that much of what GCs do is not in the presence of the board of directors, specifically when it comes to GCs providing strategic advice. While directors didn't place much emphasis on this, GCs did, though both see this as an opportunity for growth. Managing the legal needs of the company was seen as the highest priority by both GCs and directors, though GCs placed more emphasis on this role. Lastly, the directors placed more weight on the role GCs play in corporate compliance.

Seen as one of the most important ways a GC can add value, providing legal advice increasingly needs to be given in a business framework. GCs must intimately understand the business, and effectively communicate with non-lawyer business executives.

Because legal fees can affect the bottom line of a corporation's income statement, GCs must be adept at staying within budget. Whether adopting alternative fee arrangements, keeping more work in house, or hiring contractors, overspending the legal budget is a surefire way to lose credibility.

As businesses grow, the legal departments' reach spreads across the globe. A GC must effectively manage a global team by hiring the right lawyers, and maintaining a cohesive feel among the department.

To be an effective GC -- and fearless leader of the law department -- requires three main skills: understanding the business, managing legal costs and developing and maintaining a strong legal team. A growing trend in legal departments that enable GCs to be more productive is the growing role of legal operations managers; GCs who delegate operational and managerial aspects of the job are better able to focus on leadership, counseling and strategy.

What skills do you think future GCs will need to utilize? Let us know on Facebook at FindLaw for Legal Professionals.

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