Corporate counsel need to get a seat at the table

The Global Legal Post attended the 2018 ACC Europe Annual Conference in Paris and heard a profession reflecting deeply on its role and pressing needs for the future.


Working on a theme of ‘developing leadership for uncertain times’, corporate counsel wound up two days of reflecting on the future direction of their role at the 2018 ACC Europe Annual Conference in Paris. Throughout the event, delegates were urged in plenary panels and specialist sessions to build on the role of corporate counsel and get a seat at the boardroom table as soon as possible.

In the boardroom

Corporate counsel have to move on from being gatekeepers and often too remote, to being providers of opportunity and direct advisers to the chief executive officer’s executive management team as well as the board of directors. Speaking to The Global Legal Post, Veta T. Richardson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) explained: "What we are seeking to do is to open up and solidify opportunities for the general counsel to sit at two key tables within the corporate structure. We believe the general counsel must be at the table with executive management as strategy, policy and, direction for the company are being discussed, so that the general counsel has a role in contributing to that direction." Ms Richardson said counsel can help companies to avoid problems and tackle risks, and can thus play a more proactive role than currently.

Significant change

Another key theme running throughout the conference was technology and changes in the profession. Chris Murphy Ives, the ACC Europe President based in Geneva, told The Global Legal Post that regulatory, ethical and values and perspectives all need to be taken into account in decisions within companies, and "no matter how much AI or Robotics or those kind of tools, that are definitely the future, I think creativity and human relationships and trust will always prevail." He also discussed how companies run their legal operations, adding that it was a major focus for ACC, "in terms of how we track our time, how we long we’re spending on different parts of a negotiation process, how we’re dealing with external counsel. These are things that didn’t exist previously, and when you fold in AI and other things where we’re on the threshold of discovery, the profession is going to change significantly."

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