General counsel should have an enhanced role in overseeing corporate culture and a direct reporting line to the CEO, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has said. The organisation has produced a paper arguing for companies to involved the head of legal as part of the process in establishing corporate culture without compromising ethical behaviour and legal/regulatory compliance. ACC says the general counsel's seat at the chief executive's leadership table signals to the company's stakeholders that ethics, compliance, and other legal risk considerations are top priorities for the company. A direct reporting line between the chief legal officer and the chief executive officer illustrates that business decisions are made with appropriate consideration of ethical, legal, and reputational impacts, the organisation says in a paper submitted to the National Association of Corporate Directors.
At the recent GC Futures Summit, Enrique Anzar discussed how VimpelCom had created the role of Chief Values and Cultural Transformation Officer which he assumed after building up the global compliance function at VimpelCom for three years. Now a consultant in this area, Mr Anzar is adamant that general counsel should be involved at the highest levels influencing corporate culture to enhance ethics and reputation. Corporate governance expert Sarah Wilson of Manifest, whose company provides research on corporate good behaviour, said general counsel have shied away from the role but that it was one which they should be embracing.
ACC' is also emphasising the need for communication and collaboration with various business functions — both internal and external. Inclusion of the law department on business decisions helps guide the company in a manner that follows its corporate ethical compass. ACC is currently working with the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance of the University of Delaware to explore the role of general counsel from a governance perspective.To read the full paper, Leveraging Legal Leadership: The General Counsel as a Corporate Culture Influencer, click here