THE EVOLUTION OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL ROLE IN 2018 AND BEYOND

The role of the general counsel has evolved constantly over the last 5 years, with the emergence of more technology at their disposal, a rapidly changing consumer market and stricter controls on legal spend.

The GC now must juggle a range of challenging legal issues as well as greater strategical involvement with boards. Simmons & Hanbury will be undertaking a range of interviews with FTSE & Fortune GC’S to understand the impact of recent economic as well technological events that have been taking place.

Indeed, the role of a GC now goes much beyond simply providing legal advice and acting as a trusted partner to the board. The GC now is much more relied upon for commercial advice of strategical importance. We are now beginning to see an emergence of more board level GC’s with wider influence on the C-suite. Historically in the US there has always been a greater number of board GC’s and we are now seeing more appointments of GC’s into board positions within the EMEA region which is encouraging.

There are several platforms and emerging technology that GC’s now have in their disposal. Legal departments are becoming more squeezed financially and in terms of head count. GC’s must embrace the developments and innovations that occurring in the law. In 2018, 2019 and beyond we see cost pressures becoming greater as Brexit uncertainty takes shape. Fortunately, there are now more options for managed services and secondee style businesses to assist in these situations.

Manged services is becoming more widely accepted as a way of accessing legal talent, the recent growth and development of legal services within the big 4 is an example of professional services businesses forecasting this evolution as a lucrative way to provide additional revenue and services for clients. Recently EY’s acquisition of Riverview Law is an example of an acquisition intended to bolster there already growing and expanding multidisciplinary legal services offering.

In conclusion it’s anticipated we will see the role of the GC consistently evolve and develop over the coming years, the highly regulated landscape coupled with the interaction of the GC with compliance and risk highlights the importance of corporate governance. We anticipate over the next few years that executive boards will allow more influence and decision making capability to the GC as the role becomes of even more strategical importance.