Risk Update

Role of Law Firm GC — Post-Covid Perspectives, Governance, Regulation, Conflicts Management & More

Law Firm General Counsel Have Never Been So Important. Here’s Why.” —

  • “As the legal industry undergoes seismic change and grapples with the pressures caused by COVID-19 and ever active regulators, the law firm general counsel has arguably never been so important.”
  • “Slaughter and May general counsel Julia Adams also points out that while scrutiny of the industry by regulators, clients and the public has always loomed large, the fast changing landscape currently means the importance of the role cannot be underestimated.”
  • “‘It is more than simply ensuring compliance,’ she explains. ‘The role of the City lawyer is evolving fast. GCs need not only to keep abreast of changes that are coming but to understand the impact of these on the organisation so that risks can be mitigated.'”
  • “Despite Adams’ clear intention to keep regulation high on the agenda, she says it’s crucial to ensure that governance ‘does not stifle individuality, innovation and the right of partners to question decisions.'”
  • “‘For obvious reasons, unlike ‘normal’ internal clients, practising lawyers will be tempted to self-diagnose, and often want to understand the law behind internal policies,’ Adams explains.”
  • “Richard Follis, Shoosmiths’ inaugural GC who took on the role in May 2021, agrees. He says there is a ‘balance to be struck between mitigating risk at law firms without creating a lot of red tape.’ ‘To guard against risk you have to know where it is and prepare for it – the GC is essentially the lightning rod through which all of our knowledge about and defences against risk can be channelled.'”
  • “Another challenge, Clifford Chance’s Perrin says, is establishing common standards in an increasingly international world. He explains that the ‘huge proliferation of regulation that is applied in different ways across different countries,’ has made the task extremely complicated.”
  • “His key achievement was getting a new global conflict management system accepted within the firm, after realising the former way to manage conflict was ‘totally inadequate.’ The new centralised process was ‘radical’ and a ‘huge success,’ he says – with little push back from partners.”
  • “‘The process quite quickly came to be highly regarded by partners, and it’s very rare for the conflict analysis and decision to be seriously challenged internally; perhaps about five times in 20 years. That’s extraordinary and I’m proud of that.'”
  • “Legal technology is being embraced by the industry, but making sure individuals understand exactly what they have access to and how they use it ethically is a crucial consideration for Adams, she says.”