15 March 2017

Reputation management and the role of the GC

General counsel have an indispensable role to play in protecting enterprise reputation, according to a new report from Lex Mundi.

By Kathryn Higgins


In its latest report, ‘The Role of General Counsel in Protecting Enterprise Reputation: Navigating the Company to its North Star,’ analysts from law firm network Lex Mundi make a case for the crucial role that in-house legal leaders can play in protecting the standing of their company brand. The report coalesces insights shared by GCs at Lex Mundi’s 2016 Summit in Amsterdam. General Counsel have the power to influence enterprise reputation management at three key junctures, the report argues:

Anticipating and calling attention to potential risks

‘As social-political pressures expose corporations to the prospect of retroactive enforcement action, the ability of general counsel to anticipate risks becomes increasingly vital,’ the report reads. Forward-thinking general counsel have a role to play in alerting management to ethically or politically questionable business practices and elements of company operations that might post a reputational risk further down the line. Conducting site visits with operational staff, setting up ‘risk radars’ to monitor areas most likely to be targeted by activists or the media and thinking forwards to evolving societal expectation of corporate actors may all fall within the purview of the GC.

Influencing and managing colleagues and stakeholders

Anticipating every possible risk and challenge is, of course, impossible. However, fostering corporate cultures that have transparency, ethical performance and robust corporate values at their core can go a long way to mitigating potential future reputational damage. ‘The legal function can drive the culture of responsibility throughout the corporation by setting the expectation that every employee must assume ownership of the overall reputation,’ the report argues.

Preparing for the inevitable crisis

The best efforts of GCs can only go so far – and sometimes, the worst will happen. ‘A defining characteristic of crises is that they occur in ways and times that are least expected,’ the report states. ‘The challenge before the general counsel and in-house legal team is to ensure the company has all the necessary preparedness and protocols for handling what will be a fast-moving and unpredictable situation.’ Maintaining command over the ‘facts’ of company operations and ensuring open lines of communication with relevant PR staff and media professionals can go a long way to helping your company stay one step ahead of a reputation fallout.

For Lex Mundi’s full report, please click here.

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