The Biggest Threats Facing the General Counsel
“General counsel” is more than just a term to describe middle-aged lawyers contemplating early retirement and longing for weekends on the golf course. These days the general counsel plays a vital role in the success of a business. The 2015 General Counsel Excellence Report by TerraLex was conducted among 127 law firms with annual revenue ranging from $90 million to $9 billion. Results reveal that the general counsel is embracing multiple roles and taking on extra responsibilities to include director, risk manager and advisor, compliance regulator, and crisis manager. While the general counsel may enjoy their ever-expanding job description, they simultaneously face internal pressure from keeping regulators at bay to protecting the company’s board from lawsuits. On the positive side, the evolving role of general counsel also creates possibilities for law firms to adapt their services and working styles to support the in-house legal counsel. The cyberattacks that made headlines last year have certainly caught the general counsel’s attention. 31 percent of the general counsel surveyed said that cybersecurity was their biggest threat this year, only behind compliance and regulation and creating value for the company, as top concerns. Perhaps the most surprising result is that the number of businesses using outsourcing is increasing, because the general counsel face escalating pressure to do more work with a smaller budget and fewer resources. An overwhelming majority, 95 percent were looking to manage their legal spend more effectively with 72 percent saying they were actively looking for service providers to provide them with more effective and cost-efficient services. In order to improve services, 51 percent responded that they turned to technology. This suggests that general counsel may be interested in implementing legal management software as they look for ways to work more productively as their legal spend decreases. It seems as if a new kind of general counsel, known as the super general counsel, is emerging – one who knows the legal system and the business inside and out. They are presented with the challenge now, and in the future, to juggle a world of complex regulations while dealing with dwindling resources and pressure to do more work.