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A Perfect Legal Storm:  GC and the Greatest Challenges Faced

Top Challenges Facing Legal Department

The challenge of being a GC today may well be living in a perfect storm.

“The greatest challenge that general counsel have to face today is managing legal issues in an ever increasing regulatory environment, while at the same time trying to maintain control of costs,” according to Ian McDougall at the 2014 Legal Week Corporate Counsel Forum.

The “perfect storm” he continued, is that the increased regulation drives up the cost of doing business. This in turn places pressure on the legal department budget and the very team “charged with helping the business be compliant with those very regulations.”

Mr. McDougall serves as executive vice president and general counsel with LexisNexis and his comments were recorded in a video produced by Legal Week which embedded nearby.  The video is this week’s Friday Share.

7 Top Challenges from 7 GCs  

The video contains interviews with the lawyers listed below – we’ve paraphrased a key point or two as an incentive to watch the video. It is well worth hearing from these senior lawyers in their own words and the entire video lasts just six minutes.

1. Craig Stoehr, group general counsel, Thomas Cook, discusses rising to the challenge of both being a trusted commercial and legal advisor.

2. Simon Dowson-Collins, general counsel, HarperCollins, says the legal operating environment is one that has transitioned from “straight forward” with “predictable problems” to one of VOCA:  variable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

3. Michael Rasmuson, vice president, international legal operations, Baker Hughes, notes the role of legal has grown increasingly closer to the business – and is getting closer.

4. Natalie Jobling, general counsel, corporate, Network Rail, describes the delicate balance between fulfilling the role of trusted advisor and managing compliance – being a “business player” as opposed to “business prevention.”

5. Hans von der Linde, general counsel, downstream, Shell, hones in on understanding business objectives and drivers.

6. Gordon Finlayson, general counsel, HBO Europe, focuses on “adding value” to the business and specifically controlling risk in the context of adding value.

7. Liz Walker, general counsel, BT Global Services, explains the role of the GC is to help business understand risk, and what risk the business is prepared to take, and help them to do so.

Mr. McDougall closes the video out by reminding viewers that GCs are tasked with helping a company reach is commercial objectives while complying with the law and legal obligations.   Being “commercially aware is paramount,” he added.

Image:  From a recent LexisNexis Survey on legal department operations (US) (infographic)

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.