How corporate counsel are crossing frontiers to a... | KPMG | ZA

How corporate counsel are crossing frontiers to address new challenges

How corporate counsel are crossing frontiers to a...

The latest report Over the horizon: How corporate counsel are crossing frontiers to address new challenges, is a follow-up to the 2012 General Counsel (GC) survey taking a closer look at the broadening role of GC.   The report shows that GC are becoming increasingly interconnected across business operations and strategy and examines the way GC help to manage risks and considers the skills that will be required in the future.


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Key points

The objective of this publication is to highlight the evolving requirements of GC and to point out the growing need for a judicious blend of legal and business savviness in order for GC to remain relevant in the evolving legal world. It emphasizes that GC need to be in a position to foresee and forestall possible future crises. It also outlines the following key points that companies need to keep in mind:

  • For GC of the future to remain relevant and successful, additional formal training in business may be required. Two options considered are a Master’s degree in business administration, or alternatively working within a business unit for a few years. Either scenario will result in a more effective GC, as lawyers are increasingly tasked with presenting their thoughts in commercial language and on equal footing with the heads of IT, marketing, procurement, etc.
  • Cyber security might seem too technical an issue for legal counsel to deal with, but there is an important dimension in which lawyers can play a role. Interviewees say the four major key risks are: hactivists, organized criminals, government spying, and the threat from corporate insiders. GC have a particularly important role in dealing with the last of these (disgruntled employees, staff exits, third parties, M&A, governance policies, and so on). But GC should be at the table when discussing all kinds of cyber security issues and should provide advice about policies, educational programs, awareness and vigilance.
  • There are many factors that have made companies more complex, including globalization, regulatory expansion, rising stakeholder expectations and rapid technological change. This is having a direct impact in changing the scope of a General Counsel.

In the increasingly changing business world, GC are becoming further involved in matters that are not strictly legal advice – with involvement in risk management, compliance, finance, regulation, HR and business issues as well. The role of GC is evolving such that they anticipate, advise, control, and communicate to different parts of the corporation. As GC continue to cover a broader role, it is likely the Board and senior management will ask for even more from their GC.

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