What legs do global corporate legal functions stand on?
Four current and former Global Counsel Leaders Circle members spoke at a plenary session I moderated at the ILO’s Global Counsel Congress June 13 in New York City. We covered a number of questions regarding legal functions in multinationals. I was particularly interested in the panel’s straightforward and insightful answers to my question:
What has worked really well for you in terms of your legal and compliance structure, and which are the primary (supporting) beams?Adam Smith, General Counsel, DCNS:
- Aligning the legal structure to that of the operations and participating in the management structures of the business
- Making lawyers feel responsible for outcome of their projects and legal budget they consume
- Driving synergies between legal and contract management
- Having full-time compliance staff separate from the legal team but all reporting to GC
- Having an access for legal and compliance into the board, when necessary
Martha Rees, Assistant General Counsel, DuPont:
- Compliance and highest ethical standards are the accountability of each individual employee and line management – not our compliance organization or legal. It makes a huge difference.
- Legal and compliance structures are aligned to reflect structures we use to run our businesses
- However, both legal and compliance structures sit outside of business operating line to ensure independence.
Michael Hughes, Head of Compliance, Regulatory and Ethics, Accenture:
- Legal and compliance is well integrated with our business. We work hard to ensure that our personnel understand the business of Accenture. This helps us better anticipate and then evaluate the risks we face, and best mitigate and manage risks.
- Our legal team is aligned in a matrix which allows use of higher skilled, more experienced personnel on our most complex engagements on a cross-border basis. This not only facilitates using the best person for the work, it offers and opportunity for people to work on interesting and challenging projects in a broader market.
- To help manage cost, we make heavy use of lower-cost resources, both externally and internally. We have internal resources in Bratislava, India, Buenos Aires and other locations which perform important but routine or lower risk work.
Hussein Akeil, Group Chief Legal Counsel, National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia:
In our bank, Legal’s job is partly that of a translator and serving that role has been effective for us. We are expected to translate legal opinions from external law firms, in many cases in foreign jurisdictions and give it to the business in language they can understand (business terms). In many if not all cases they do not care for the nuances of the legalities but want to know if it fits within their risk appetites.