Legal functions are clearly struggling to get the support they need for investment. There could be many reasons for this – competing investment demands, lower level of understanding of the function and its role or, in some cases, just a historic perception issue – but whatever the reason, more investment needs to be secured in order to deliver the transformation needed. This does not need to be the in-house counsel’s future. In many organisations, the combined disruptions from Brexit and COVID-19 have thrust GCs into the executive spotlight, providing them with a much more influential role and an opportunity to demonstrate the legal function’s value.
Looking ahead, the legal department clearly has a continuing role, not only in protecting the business from future crises, but also in realising the strategic agenda. The pandemic has prompted a general reimagining of what happens in businesses and a more nuanced sense of where value is derived, raising existential questions about corporate purpose and values, accelerating the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) agenda, and sharpening the focus on employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. These are all areas where the legal function can contribute significantly to long-term value.
To cement their place among the top decision-makers, GCs now need to demonstrate they are adding value in new ways closely aligned with the business’s strategy and purpose. They must maintain the rigour, objectivity and independence that come with their profession, but at the same time adopt a commercial mindset, understand the drivers for change and argue a compelling business case for investment in the legal function.