Gartner: General Counsel from Legal to Business Leadership

General counsel (GC) who spend more time on executive activities (strategic work and supplying business guidance) are more effective than those who spend less, according to Gartner.

The “executive” GC are more likely to achieve their personal objectives, have greater influence with other executives and contribute more to corporate outcomes.

«In an era where corporate success is often defined by assets that legal protects (IP, data rights, reputation) and services legal provides (risk governance), GC are essential to corporate strategy and must focus their time accordingly. The pandemic—with the interdependence of governmental action and corporate response—has only heightened the importance of the GC», said Abbott Martin, vice president, research, in the Gartner Legal and Compliance Practice.

The most effective GC, who take a more executive approach to their role, have a stronger ability to influence the CEO (83%), and provide a significant impact on strategic decision making (89%).

Unluckily, just 8% of GC play an executive role with most (59%) performing legal work and guidance rather than involving themselves in top-level strategy.

«As a starting point, GC should think about the role they occupy and have a direct conversation with the CEO about long-term corporate needs – said Martin – . GC should rework their future commitments, so that they are keenly focused on the highest priority corporate goals and strategy».

In particular, according to Gartner GC will always need to be involved in things like contract management, M&A and regulatory analysis. GC exhibiting business leadership focus on the strategic elements of that work. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic has created many new legal and compliance issues for most companies, and decisions on the way forward will need expert legal involvement.

The challenge for GC is to shift their approach to risk management and their mindset from a provider of legal services to a business leader who provides strategic and operational clarity to the company.