Our “In-House Top 5” and our “Lawyers Top 5” section in the Business Law Magazine present all of the important and practice-oriented topics that are high on the agenda of leading lawyers in Germany and abroad. Since 2014, the core statement of this magazine has been: “By lawyers for companies.” In implementing this journalistic claim, it is helpful for all parties involved if external consultants actually know which questions move the client in-house. And vice versa. We would like to contribute further to improving transparency in the German legal market in the future, on both the demand and supply side, for companies, law firms, auditing firms and service providers. And because time is a factor (and of course, time is money), we have tried to make our reporting as succinct as possible.
Be more than ”just the legal guy”
The top 5 requirements for general counsel that are not new, but more relevant than ever in times of crisis and accelerated corporate transformation:
- The General Counsel (GC) is and remains one of the closest confidants and a strategic business partner of the CEO and Chairman of the Supervisory Board. He must be a person of integrity, professional expertise, loyalty and pragmatism.
- The GC truly knows the company. He has a broad range of expertise and activities, comprising a high level of understanding of and an excellent view on the key topics in the Group and their interdependencies. He is the central link to the other management functions in the holding company and to the managing directors of the operating units. His operational and financial acumen must be impeccable.
- The GC is a co-creator of the corporate strategy and a driver of corporate transformation. He needs to act with the self-perception of a co-entrepreneur who is able to guide the leadership team in taking risks rather than avoiding them altogether, and who is eager to add value and innovate at every turn. The GC has the responsibility to lead, strategize, and develop trust (internally and externally). He sets the priorities, clarifies on actions and balances competing interests, which is vital for the company to execute effectively.
- However (and in public perception GCs are commonly being reduced to this role), the CG is also responsible for preventing material and immaterial damages to the company. In this respect, he ensures cross-disciplinary compliance with the ever-evolving legal, regulatory, GRC and/or other requirements for listed companies, but is also responsible for crisis and business continuity management. With the increasing digitization of corporate strategies, this might also include responsibility for the information security (CISO) as well as data protection (GDPO).
- Finally, the GC (often being the Chief Compliance Officer as well) serves as a role model. He must exemplify, communicate and promote the corporate values and culture. He must listen into the organization and be open and approachable to everyone.