Legal Briefing

The GC {Re}Defined

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Legal Technology | 02 October 2018

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We live in an era of technological disruption where entire industries are being created, decimated, and reshaped. The same forces bringing about those transformations are also redefining roles in the C-suite – chief among them, the general counsel.

The GC role has long been evolving from a purely legal function to one more integrated into the broader business arena. But the proliferation of technology and the unrelenting pace of business today have given new urgency to this transition. On any given day, you, as the GC, may be required to take any number of roles. To name just a handful: crisis counsellor, risk manager, dealmaker, CEO confidante, board counsellor, and department leader.

As advisers to clients on their most strategic and transformational transactions, cases, and risk management, we have witnessed new demands and pressures on GCs up close. Through our many conversations with some of the most talented GCs around the world, we have also gained insights into how the most effective individuals are managing to balance a growing list of priorities and shape the growth trajectory of their businesses, often with limited or no professional leadership development.

In a new thought leadership series titled ‘The GC {Re}Defined’, we will explore the themes of what is determining the current and future role of GCs. Our aim is to spark a dialogue with you, and the GC community, that will help you meet the new demands of today and tomorrow.

We believe that this moment in history gives GCs an unprecedented opportunity to lead their companies in an increasingly complex and fast-moving business environment. But it is not a role for the faint of heart. Successful GCs will have to adopt a growth mindset that relishes the challenge of acquiring new skills and leading in a time of uncertainty.

Among the challenges facing nearly every GC that we will address in posts are:

  • The legal technology explosion. It is hard to overestimate the profound impact that technology has had on the legal industry in the last few years. What is more, this transformation has only just begun, with the widespread application of artificial intelligence around the corner. How can GCs stay ahead of the curve?
  • Increased exposure to risks. The spread of technology and the ubiquity of data have exposed companies to a range of new calamities, notably data and privacy breaches. Further, the explosion of social media has increased the stakes for responding well. How are the smart GCs preparing for the inevitable crises their companies will face?
  • Globalisation of business. Just as GCs are being asked to adopt a wider lens through which to see their roles, they are also being required to manage matters beyond markets and jurisdictions in their home countries. How can GCs best help their companies exploit opportunities abroad?

In short, there has never been a more exciting or challenging time to be a GC.

Here’s a taste of an upcoming blog post.

Artificial intelligence v human intelligence

The advanced development of artificial intelligence (AI) accelerates by the day, forcing companies in just about every industry to contemplate the kind of disruption, ethical considerations, and business opportunities it will hasten. With a combination of legal and business judgment, you, as the general counsel, must play a key role in these deliberations.

"I don’t think that AI changes what is needed from my role. My role is more often about judgment and about getting my team to the right solution." Richard Taylor, euNetworks
“I don’t think that AI changes what is needed from my role. My role is more often about judgment and about getting my team to the right solution.”
Richard Taylor, euNetworks

In addition to the impact on your companies and industries, you will also have to understand what AI’s advancement means for the delivery of legal services. For some time now, AI has made repetitive tasks faster and more efficient, freeing up lawyers to do more high-end work. AI tools, for example, can already assist with due diligence and electronic discovery; produce basic contracts; and help better predict litigation outcomes based on case law and a judge’s previous rulings.

Embracing AI

Many GCs have embraced these tools. To cite one example, Alan Bryan, senior associate GC of legal operations and outside counsel management at Walmart Inc, recently told corporate counsel about a new AI tool that is reducing time its lawyers spend drafting answers to litigation and initial discovery requests.

Some GCs have told us they are eager to deploy AI to more areas like regulatory compliance where there is potential for savings, efficiencies, and fewer errors.

But AI’s influence has only just begun to be felt in the legal industry, making it important for you to keep abreast of new developments and to strategically test and evaluate tools to understand their benefits, limits, and drawbacks. As AI offerings become more popular and widespread, it will be up to you to effectively communicate to management how to best take advantage of legal AI and what kinds of returns on investments can be expected.

The future of AI

The fact is AI is only going to get more and more sophisticated. The only question is how quickly. In a recent Thomson Reuters survey of more than 200 in-house counsel, eight percent of respondents with large legal departments (more than 11 lawyers) predicted AI will be mainstream in corporate legal departments within two to three years, 19 percent said within five years, and 36 percent said within 10 years.

Still, while there is a wide range of opinions about how quickly AI will spread, there is consensus around one point: AI will not replace the need for the high-level counsel and judgment that GCs provide. That kind of work cannot be automated, says Richard Taylor, GC for London-based bandwidth infrastructure provider euNetworks Group Ltd.

‘I don’t think that AI changes what is needed from my role’ says Taylor. ‘My role is more often about judgment and about getting my team to the right solution based on my assessment of the situation and the people involved and my experience.’

Visit www.mofo.com to read more and to follow our future posts and other content #GCReDefined. We look forward to supporting clients globally and continuing the conversation through regular blog posts, articles, videos, and events.