General Counsel: The Global Corporation’s Next Agent Of Change

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 10:27

In this highly complex and regulated business environment, general counsel are increasingly being asked to act as a trusted advisor, risk-mitigation agent, and counselor-in-chief for the organization’s board and executives. Controlling costs, managing the increased risk and complexity of the regulatory environment, and defending business litigation are just some of the things that keep general counsel up at night. As these challenges have become increasingly global in scale, the demands on the general counsel have only grown.

U.S.-based businesses are overwhelmingly focused on international markets to fuel growth, expand operations, roll out new products, and partner with overseas vendors. Today, the average Fortune 500 Company is seeing global legal costs and requirements increase as global revenue also increases; whether it be understanding the risks of doing business in a certain locale, negotiating contracts that won’t expose the company to undue burden, ensuring adherence to varying local regulation, or helping defend the company should litigation arise, corporate legal teams now have the added responsibility for managing these tasks worldwide.

This all amounts to a set of market dynamics that necessitate change within the corporate legal environment. While the concept of globalization is not new, its impact on the legal department has often lagged the impact on frontline business operations. To put it another way, now that so many organizations are running integrated operations delivering on their core business mission, the legal department is finding that it must do likewise to operate as a true business partner.

This globalization of corporate legal operations demands a certain level of flexibility and willingness to alter practices to realize global legal goals. When successful, the general counsel and his or her team operate as global change agents, driving a shift in perspective, processes, and adoption of tools that allow the corporate legal department to operate in a manner that supports the global enterprise. Stacey Coote, AIG’s director of Legal Operations in EMEA and APAC, noted, “For AIG, rolling out legal tools and processes on a global scale is a massive change management program.”

Whether your specific challenges are focused on controlling global legal spend, increasing collaboration amongst geographically distributed teams or creating repeatable, predictable workflows, the challenges of globalizing operations will almost certainly be aided by the implementation of a robust change management program.

As power continues to shift away from outside counsel and into the office of the general counsel, GCs are now well positioned to lead their teams forward to refine their global operations and truly become best-run departments within the organization. But what does it require?

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As a Product Manager at Mitratech, Dave Deitering acts as the internal client evangelist for the TeamConnect product line, ensuring that product strategy closely aligns with the needs of our clients and the broader enterprise legal management market. Mr. Deitering has had the privilege of working with the best corporate legal departments at some of the world’s leading organizations for the past two years and looks forward to continuing that work as the market evolves.

Please email the author at david.deitering@mitratech.com with questions about this article.