The data general counsel analyze for risk and compliance is increasingly displaying potential for value creation elsewhere in business operations. Corporations need to recognize this opportunity when it comes their way.
As corporate governance standards and litigation continue to evolve, the issues impacting C-suite executives increasingly appear more complex. Because of this trend, general counsel has already been integrated with senior leadership and increasingly have their hand in more decision-making responsibilities for the business. An Association of Corporate Counsel survey found that 93 percent of general counsel are now members of the executive management team and, now more than ever, need to be heavily involved in decisions and major issues impacting the company. It’s critical they remain a steadfast voice of authority for both risk assessment and for a proactive strategy toward success in an organization.
General Counsel Value Delivered to the C-Suite
With the shift to a new administration this year, government regulators are likely to cast a more vigilant eye on business practices. Many of President Biden’s appointees and nominees since taking office have been staunch financial and corporate regulators, and the priorities outlined in his first regulatory agenda confirm his commitment to implementing tougher regulation.
Companies will need to be more meticulous in their risk assessment than they have ever been before. That responsibility ultimately falls on general counsel. As businesses work to review and tighten up their procedures in the new compliance ecosystem we work in, general counsel can support leadership in planning ahead and providing a discerning perspective within critical conversations. General counsel not only offers a way to navigate difficult legal situations, but also enables a fresh viewpoint into how the market may shift, how regulator sentiment may change even further and how a business can pivot its growth strategy to be as effective as possible.
Data Management in a Post-Pandemic Workplace
General counsel are dealing with challenges at a scale we’ve never seen before: sensitive information dissemination, preparing for new types of evidence collection requests and mitigating risk for a workforce that collaborates and shares sensitive information in a hybrid modality.
As we enter a new era of workflow management, the traditional tools general counsel puts to use may no longer cut it. These professionals need to consider new types of data created by modern day organizations and cope with data that is increasingly compiled in unstructured formats.
Beyond centralizing this data, they also need to be able to more effectively access, understand and process it, turning it into digestible insights for optimized productivity and greater control of risk. After all, risk management is increasingly coming into the forefront of the general counsel’s role – a 2020 Association of Corporate Counsel survey found that 62 percent of chief legal officers are regularly consulted on business risks, and about one-third weigh in on financial risks.
Another example of where significant business value can be driven by general counsel is in contract management. Corporate counsel has ultimate responsibility for contracts within their company and, according to The International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM), organizations miss out on 9 percent of revenue every year because of poor contract management. For a business with $1 billion in annual sales, this translates to approximately $90 million in lost revenue.
As contracts govern all business relationships across the enterprise, being able to organize this information so that it can be served for greater business utility can elevate the role of general counsel from a risk-management focus to a proactive, value-generating function for the business.
In this new era, the role of general counsel has become more of a bridge-builder and connective resource that all C-suite executives can utilize to become more efficient and successful. Thus, these professionals will need to find a way to move away from just sifting through data and manually managing team workflows. General counsel needs to build value for their companies, identifying market trends and extracting important information that other executives may have missed.
The data general counsel is evaluating for risk is becoming an intelligible source of business value. As such, general counsel is in a strong position to increase influence in their organizations, supporting their ability to effectively make decisions previously guarded for other C-suite level executives. This is a welcome opportunity, not only for the general counsel, but also for the other C-suite executives looking to increase their competitive advantage. As time goes on, with the continued support they need, we expect to see many more companies reap the benefits of the growing influence of general counsel.