C O N T E N T S
F O R E W O R D B Y C L Y D E & C O
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the COVID-19 global pandemic, such has been its impact across our lives, has changed everything for businesses, forcing organisations to abandon existing plans and rethink old certainties forever. But amid all this uncertainty, it is important to remember that many of the issues and underlying concerns that General Counsel and their businesses faced prior to this crisis have not gone anywhere. The Looking Glass study results are encouraging. Before the crisis many General Counsel and their Boards harboured concerns about their organisations’ ability to cope with rapid change or to successfully adopt new technology. Most of these concerns have been alleviated by their competent response to COVID. Meanwhile, other important issues that have been simmering in the background have come into sharper focus and new risks have emerged from the crisis, all of which look set to define many organisations’ commercial priorities for years to come.
General Counsel are playing an increasingly central role in the leadership and governance of their organisations, notwithstanding crisis responses such as that to COVID-19. They are developing their in-house legal teams to become closer to the organisation’s leadership structure, which has necessitated a deeper and more integrated understanding of commercial objectives, operations and the broader risk landscape. Both Boards and General Counsel agree that the most important aspect of the latter’s role is to align the legal function to business strategy, but it appears there is still more that Boards could do to support them with this. Given the ongoing and at times rapid shift in emphasis for the role of General Counsel, it is incumbent upon Boards to ensure they recognise and understand the pressures impacting their legal teams, and to give them the time, trust, authority and budget to provide full value to their organisations. I would also argue that this necessitates a different type of counsel and support from private practice firms such as Clyde & Co, who must pivot their services to support their General Counsel and in-house legal clients more effectively, with a fuller understanding and appreciation of their commercial objectives as they face these increasingly complex business and leadership challenges.
That’s why this year’s Looking Glass survey is particularly pertinent. It captures the opinions and sentiments of in-house legal teams and Boards just as the pandemic was emerging, giving us one last glimpse of the ‘pre-COVID’ concerns of business around the world. It also tracks their thinking as COVID-19 has progressed, providing us with some useful clues as to what the pandemic has done to shift opinions around core business themes and risk management and what the permanent impact might be.
Section 1 The risk landscape
Section 2 Growth
Section 3 Technology and innovation
Section 4 The role of General Counsel and the Board
About Clyde & Co
Peter Hirst Senior Partner, Clyde & Co
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