The in-house counsel revolution which saw its first developments brewing in the late 1970s envisioned a critical role for the General Counsel as a lawyer-statesperson, moving beyond the scope of the law, and including matters of ethics, risk, governance, and compliance. With the increasing scope and power, the General Counsel is now participating in decisions and actions that are not just about risks but also about opportunities, and not limited to the law but also about business.

Evolving beyond the traditional role of a chief legal officer that focused solely on litigation, transactions, cost reductions, legal outsourcing etc. the General Counsel has expanded its responsibility in corporate governance and compliance areas and now play a key role in shaping the significant governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) management policies. It also includes proactive legal risk management and preventive law, making the GC a critical pillar in an organization's risk management strategy.

Being a part of the core management team, the GC now has to directly work with the board of directors in communicating the daily operations of the company's compliance programs, while proactively advising on risks and ways to safeguard company profits by exhibiting those proper policies, procedures, and controls are in place to monitor violations. Thus, broadening the role of GC in helping drive risk assessments, policy management, internal investigations, and compliance management.

The Crucial Role of GC in Implementing GRC:

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) refer to a strategy for managing an organization's overall governance, enterprise risk management, and compliance with regulations. Technology plays a pivotal role in ensuring the effectiveness of GRC frameworks to manage and mitigate risks and ensure compliance while effectively managing risk and meeting compliance requirements.

An effective GRC strategy is an integrated, concerted, and enterprise-wide effort to deliberately design a process driven approach to governance, risk and, compliance activities. What makes it an integrated undertaking is the fact that it is an initiative that brings change across the four principal operational dimensions; people, process, technology, and culture.

The pivotal duty of a GC here will be to understand the legal implications of GRC at both the strategic and operational levels and guide the organization in a way that helps achieve the greatest value from the GRC strategy. And for that, legal must be included in the front-end design of GRC strategy and ensure that it is created to meet the requirements of the legal department and its processes.

Legal can play a critical role in the design of an integrated GRC strategy because of its understanding of matter management, issue identification, investigations, policy management, reporting and filing, legal risk and organizational obligations.

Enterprise Legal Management platforms and ecosystems emerged to support the opportunity and vision of Legal maximizing business profitability. The analytics from the platform can highlight the value add and correlate to business indicators directly enforcing the view of how Legal is tightly integrated with business profit centers.

Looking Ahead:

As General Counsel have the additional responsibility to administer various tactical activities like reviews and assessments, it leaves them time-constrained for participating in strategic and leadership activities imperative to strengthen and improvise on GRC frameworks, giving their organization a competitive edge over others. The near Real Time consolidated visibility and control of multifunctional end to end automated processes will allow the GC's to streamline and create an efficient and cost effective legal entity working in sync with the rest of the enterprise functions to enhance the business profitability.

Contrary to the former role of being a reactive leader, the GCs of today have to become proactive by creating a risk aware culture in the workplace. This includes inculcating a culture of risk awareness with the ability to predict future risks. Apart from being the standard bearer for the corporate conscience, the GC should also know how to balance his role of being a protector and enabler of values.

*We have reached an age where the largest and oldest of conglomerates are being challenged by startups like PracticeLeague with successfully implemented innovative business models that we could only see in science fictions. It's imperative that all entities of enterprises gain unified speed and accuracy of innovation, implementation and execution to either sustain their competitive edge or create new and effective business models in continuum. Technology stands as the strongest enabler to today's need of augmented intelligence.

-Subibechana Shaw

Published in "LawZ Magazine" on 8th Sep, 2018

Insights for General Counsel