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

Connections

As a GC, your most important professional connections are within your company. Once, those might have been the only ones that mattered to you. But we live in a connected age. We ‘know’ more people than would have seemed possible a few years ago. Some of our most important business relationships may be with people we have yet to meet face-to-face. On social media, we discover that we’re linked to people we’ve never heard of. What does this mean for the GC?

Essentially, it’s a huge opportunity. One problem the in-house lawyer used to have was isolation. Now it’s the easiest thing in the world to reach out to other GCs.

And sharing information and ideas – whether in formal settings such as a policy forum or professional association or in less formal (real or virtual) social settings – can be hugely valuable. For example, at InterCorp, Juan Antonio Castro has created a roundtable initiative where the company brings together a range of lawyers from different industries to discuss the impact of digital change, an area that’s particularly rich for sharing ideas and experience as the law and regulations are still developing.

Why would a GC not wish to take advantage of all that’s on offer, be it mentoring, the exchange of knowledge and experience, access to opportunities, a sounding-board for new ideas, or even just a sympathetic ear?

Nor do connections outside the company have to be restricted to the in-house legal community. Inspirational GCs have become opinion formers and influencers in areas such as equal rights, social justice and corporate responsibility. Others have taken on roles such as non-executive directorships or trusteeships or become mentors.

Other than in extreme circumstances – typically, bad ones – it’s not the GC’s job to be the face of his company. But the GC is always a corporate ambassador, and a top-class GC is also a top-class ambassador.

One of your most valuable assets as a GC is time. You will, of course, never have enough of it, but what you choose to do with it is crucial. Lawyers are traditionally task-focused, but many effective GCs have discovered that – while tasks can be deferred, delegated or outsourced – the uniquely personal investment of time in building relationships, both inside and outside your company, may help to achieve progress, understanding and influence in a way that nothing else will.

Questions

  • Are you a good networker, both within and beyond your company? If not, can you improve your networking skills?
  • Do you invest time in connecting with people?
  • Do you have strong relationships with the key people in your company?
  • Some people say the GC is the best- connected person in the business, as they are involved in every aspect of it. Is that true for you? And if so, do you take full advantage of it?
  • Are you active on social media (not just with family / friends)?
  • Are you a ‘thought leader’?