New Report Explores the Changing Role of General Counsel

December 11, 2013 —

The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) published a new report examining the evolving role of general counsel and chief legal officers. "Skills for the 21st Century General Counsel," released December 10, draws on insight from hundreds of current and former general counsel and chief legal officers, as well as dozens of public company directors, CEOs, recruiters, and other experts to offer a comprehensive analysis of the changing demands placed upon these top in-house legal positions. 

Georgetown Law's Center for the Study of the Legal Profession conducts  research into trends and developments in law practice, and provides education on leadership and the legal profession to both students and practicing lawyers. “We were delighted to work with ACC on this project to examine closely how the role of general counsel is evolving, given the increasingly critical responsibilities that these lawyers are assuming," said Georgetown Law Professor Mitt Regan, co-director of the Center. 

Among the many notable findings in the new report is that both company directors and general counsel expect the value of the general counsel's strategic input into business decisions to increase in the future. Seventy-one percent of general counsel and 37 percent of directors expect this responsibility to become even more valuable over the next five to 10 years. The research also revealed differences in perspective among top legal officers, based on their experience level and type of workplace. General counsel with more experience and who work at public companies were more likely to rank counseling the CEO and board of directors as top value drivers than those who were new to the in-house role or work at private companies. More experienced general counsel were also more likely to rank managing law department expenditures as a valuable job responsibility. 

Additionally, the majority of corporate directors ranked compliance responsibilities as an essential component of the general counsel role, possibly reflective of the fact that regulators have become more likely to hold board members accountable for compliance offenses.

The report was derived from a survey of 689 general counsel and chief legal officers, 78 public company directors, interviews with 28 current and former general counsel, board members, CEOs, legal futurists, and executive recruiters worldwide, in addition to a focus group of general counsel. The ACC is a global bar association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations.

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