The Strategic Business Counsel: The ‘8C’ Model

What is the ideal twenty-first century GC like? We believe the best term for them is ‘strategic business counsel’. Over the following pages we set out a model which attempts to visualise the factors that combine to make strategic business counsel capable of operating at the highest level within their organisation.

Our model has been developed through hundreds of conversations with GCs in a wide variety of jurisdictions. Some parts of it may resonate with you more than others. It would be wrong to underestimate the impact of local conditions, just as particular employers, and the characters of GCs themselves, can lead to very different situations. Nevertheless, we believe that – as our several results show – GCs around the world have a great deal in common, and that each of the ‘8Cs’ in the model is an important aspect of strategic business counsel life for the vast majority of them.

In each case, we’ve tried to explain what’s significant for the GC and to follow our explanation with some thought-provoking questions.

Some of our previous GC reports have included tools for GCs seeking to improve aspects of their performance. This is not a tool as such, but we hope it will help GCs who are thinking about what they do and how they do it.

One challenge is that some of these areas are more within the GC’s control than others. In some cases, the biggest difficulty for the GC may be finding the right modus operandi to achieve both the company’s goals and their own.

Our model shows what helps a GC to move up the Value Pyramid. A GC who scores highly in this model while being on a low level of the GC pyramid – or who judges themselves to be at the top of the pyramid but is a low achiever in terms of the 8C model – will want to think about the reasons for that disconnect. Are they in the wrong role? Is their opinion of themselves not matched by what others think? Or have they so far succeeded while maintaining a narrow focus – and, if so, do they now have an opportunity to spread their wings?

We know that not all GCs face the same problems and challenges – although most of the GCs who have seen this model, or earlier versions of it, have been enthusiastic. But we hope our ‘8Cs’ will, at the very least, provide the material for some fruitful reflection and discussion

Key contacts

Contact
Felipe Arze Abogado Corporativo
Luis Felipe Arze, LL.M
Partner
T +56 22 4852 073
Jonathan Warne
Jonathan Warne
Partner
T +44 20 7524 6130

Change

 

Change is part of business life, both at the corporate level and within the legal department. The key question for the GC is: will you drive change, or will you be driven by it? Do you reshape your team because of demands imposed from above? Or do you take the initiative in looking at how to improve processes and reshape functions? Are you involved in planning the change that will result from corporate evolution, or are you left to sort it out afterwards?

The most obvious area of change at the moment is technology. If even half the predictions we’re currently hearing about artificial intelligence, automation and robotics come true, then many companies and business models will look hugely different in just a few years’ time.

"For GCs and for legal counsel at law firms, for the legal profession in general, the years to come are going to be very challenging. Digital transformation is happening at a very fast pace, than changes to regulate the digitalisation of our economy."

And if you’re not thinking about how technology can change the way legal services are delivered, you’re missing a very important trick. Juan Antonio Castro at InterCorp Group highlighted that this fact is also very pertinent for our conversation.

But the march of technology shouldn’t distract the GC from other aspects of change. There is always scope to improve the way things are done within the legal department. There will always be new, external pressures on the body corporate, ranging from new questions of compliance to the challenges of new markets and pressure from new competitors. A GC who wants to be a leader needs to own change. That’s certainly something that our interviewees recognised. Carlos Hernan Paz Moquera, at Riopaila Castilla, stated:

"Lawyers are obligated to make the legal function more innovative for the rest of the business."

Questions

  • How proactive are you in seeking ways to improve what you do?
  • Are you abreast of developments in your industry or sector, as well as in the law and legal services?
  • Are you using technology to increase your contribution to the business?
  • How innovative are you? Is there something you can do that would be genuinely good and that no GC has previously done?
  • What can you do to facilitate change for others?
  • Do you understand change management?