General Counsel Summit 2019 - Highlights

Standing out from the legal crowd - Why and how General Counsel (GCs) need to transform their legal operations

Our General Counsel Summit brought together experts from a wide range of industries to discuss how large legal teams can drive overall better business outcomes by embracing the right mix of people, process and technology. 

It was a fascinating day that offered great insight into what CEOs and board members expect from GCs and the challenges that Heads of Legal face when transforming their legal operations, as well as the opportunities and risks that come from this.

“Legal isn’t just a filter, business prevention tool or roadblock, it’s a key strategic pillar of any business operation.”

Guest panelist

A summary of the top three takeaways from the day

Every GC faces the same challenge: transforming the function they lead. However, they’re all starting from a different place, and each has their own unique priorities. While technology is a key enabler of change, any approach to transformation needs to focus on the specific benefits that it will bring to the business and to the people in the legal team. 

PwC’s Head of Deals, Ken Walsh, discussed the steps that he and his team had to take in order to transform their business. His most important insight: make sure that people understand the need for change and also appreciate how transformation will work to their advantage. 

PwC Partners Jason McQuillen and Michael Magee looked at how to use benchmarking insights to build a case for change. The numbers matter, but they need to be used in the right way and with a detailed understanding of the broader context in which the legal function operates.

As the GC role continues to change, the expectations of the board are changing too. Andy Giverin, PwC Partner, outlined how the business and the boardroom increasingly require GCs to add value beyond pure legal expertise.

Others agreed. “The GC of the future needs to work out where and how they can benefit the business and communicate this to the board,” one guest panelist added “Legal isn’t just a filter, business prevention tool or roadblock, it’s a key strategic pillar of any business operation.” 

GCs are increasingly seen as not only a trusted legal advisor, but also responsible for leading a function that is efficient and delivers value to the wider business, just like finance or HR.  They are excelling in the greater freedom and responsibility of this role, delivering value to the board and the business. This presents a great opportunity to deliver more value but the transformation required is not always easy to achieve or sustain.

PwC Partner, Juan Crosby, moderated a panel that discussed how to succeed in this new environment, concluding that leadership has never been more important.  The expectations are on GCs that they are the key drivers in evolving their legal departments from provision of siloed services to being a proactive, integrated and strategic business partner.

The choice of technology solutions available to in-house legal teams is already huge, and still growing. But GCs should beware of the hype. Technology can add enormous value to the legal function, but its use has to be built on a strong and supported business case, that understands current activities and future requirements, before making an early technology decision.

Umang Paw, PwC UK Digital and Forensics Investigations Lead, summarised a series of breakout sessions that looked at implementing legal operations in a modern legal team. Participants agreed that it was crucial for all stakeholders to be on board and aware of the benefits of adopting an innovative approach. This means consulting widely and also looking for ways in which existing enterprise technology investments can be adapted to meet legal’s current needs. It’s also fundamentally important not to underestimate the value of having the right people in the right roles.

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