What is important to GCs

We listed various responsibilities and asked GCs which were important parts of their role.

Their responses showed a wide range of involvement in key corporate activity – more so, in some areas, than we have seen in other parts of the world.

For example, strategic business planning is very important or essential for 77% of our Latin American GCs, as opposed to 45% of the GCs we recently surveyed in Singapore and 46% of those we surveyed a few years ago in the UK.

Conversely, legal solutions for common commercial issues are very important or essential for only 69% of our Latin American GCs, as opposed to 80% in Singapore and 81% in the UK.

In other cases, the numbers are more similar e.g. the negotiation of significant contracts and deals is very important or essential for 85% of the Latin American GCs we surveyed, 81% of the UK GCs and 80% of the Singapore GCs.

Some of these differences may reflect sectoral differences between the regions (e.g. over a quarter of the Latin American GCs we surveyed work in Oil & Gas or the extractive industries – a proportion far greater than in the UK or Singapore). But it also appears to be the case that the Latin American GCs we surveyed are – on average – operating at a more senior level. To some extent this may reflect the proportion who work for large international companies. It is a topic we will return to below, when discussing the GC Value Pyramid.

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

Leadership

 

As well as being legal leaders, the GCs we surveyed are mostly (73%) on the boards or in the executive teams of their organisations – although in some cases this is a national team within a multinational organisation.

For many of the GCs we’ve talked to, this ‘seat at the table’ is also reflected in their changing remit, and what they see as fundamentally important in what they and their teams do.

Leadership of the in-house legal function, however, requires a different combination of skills from leadership within an executive team.

The key difference is that this is an area in which the GC is not part of a group of decision-making equals. It is an area in which the GC is the boss. The decisions are theirs, as are many other aspects of the job, such as the requirement to strategise, the necessity to recruit and develop the right team, and the need to energise and inspire that team. All these require particular leadership skills. They also require time – something that many GCs, particularly those who are still heavily involved in doing hands-on legal work, find difficult.

These various demands – and many others – are something many GCs still struggle with, particularly if they are in their first management role. The most effective GCs are often those who have the confidence to delegate many legal and management functions to team members they know they can trust. They know when to step back and when to intervene.

As illustrated by the findings above, the management of individuals in the in-house team was categorised as very important or essential by 83% of the GCs in our survey. This echoes thoughts from GCs in the UK, who often cite leadership of the legal team as the area where they need the most development – but also as an area where they feel they can bring the most value to their company, by building an empowered legal team that is fully equipped to meet the needs of their business.