Legal19 July, 2016

Keen to go up the corporate ladder? Become a business partner

In order to be successful and advance in their careers, General Counsel need to demonstrate their value within the company and change the perception that their function is merely administrative.

Through Contract Creation and Management and Risk Control in-house Legal Departments can directly influence the business and enable other departments to be more commercially-minded. Productivity is still a key issue within the legal department but increased regulation, commercial risk, and the need to make the organisation more commercially-minded are far more important to the wider business today.

86.7% of respondents to the Client Intelligence Report, the Legal 500’ comprehensive investigation into the global legal market that includes the feedback of over 4,700 General Counsel and in-house respondents in 120 countries, say they have stronger interactions with the business today than in the past. This positive change is imputable to the top two challenges that, according to the report, Legal Counsel are currently facing in their organisations:

  1. Global economic stress (51.9%)
  2. Increased regulation (45.6%)

The General Counsel in smaller or mid-sized companies, however, need to cope with some more practical issues before fully benefiting from this new chance to directly influence the business: contracts are often not signed before work commences, which creates problems with billing and payment; contract variations are sometimes not tracked formally, hence, leading to greater risk control in the business; or key information is buried in contracts and not visible to key decision-makers; it’s very hard to extract data from contracts and make use of that data across the organisation.

Wolters Kluwer interviewed some Legal Counsel employed in 1-15 people-sized companies across the UK. We discussed business contract management in general, how to collaborate with sales to mitigate contract variations that cause risks and how they see their role in the future. Take a look at some of your colleagues’ most insightful quotes we collected and reported here.

"We are regulated for anti-money laundering. That brings in the whole ‘Know Your Client’ issues. We may do a ‘Know Your Client’ brief on a brokerage deal – and we need to make sure we use the same core data for all departments."

"The case for spending the money – it’s about making the whole company work smarter – this isn’t an insular look at the department saying we could justify our existence better. It’s saying to the company, we’ll have more on the bottom line and look how much better off we would be."

Neil Northmore, General Counsel, Burgess Yachts

"If I’m in sales, all I see is 40 pages of text – I’m not a lawyer, I can’t skim read it quickly. How am I going to find what I need? If we can do anything to make that easier, which in turn will give us better data, we’ll have better relationships with clients."

"I would say the issue of collecting data summaries and the ability to leverage the best out of the system so that it connects with other parts of the organisation – if you can do that then you really are helping people and not just the legal team."

Legal Director, Global Communications Group

From the interviews, it became clear that there’s an unmet need to simplify the process of managing risk and to easily extract data from contracts and make use of that data across the organisation.

Legal Counsel have the great chance to contribute to solving such issues and therefore demonstrate their financial impact to the organisation they’re working for.

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