The Changing Role of General Counsel and Legal Service Providers
Today, I had the privilege to talk on an amazing panel at ESADE university in beautiful Barcelona on the topic „The Changing Role of General Counsel and Legal Service Providers“.
First, professor Mari Sako of Said Business School at the University of Oxford gave a fascinating keynote on the topic, including a social sciences‘ view on a subject usually relegated to law and, only sometimes, business schools. The subsequent panel discussion featured top profile participants Maria Jose Esteban (ESADE Law School), Eva Argiles (General Counsel, Applus), professor George Chondrakis (ESADE Business School), Maurus Schreyvogel (Chief Legal Innovation Officer, Novartis) and Pilar Pelaez (Head of Legal and Compliance Europe, Cigna International Markets) as well as professor Mari Sako and yours truly.
I was loaded with ideas and impressions, having just spent two days at a conference with general counsels from more than 50 countries in Athens. But the depth and insights of today‘s session topped even that.
My main take aways from the fascinating discussion were that the role of the Inhouse legal function is changing rapidly. This is driven by ever increasing complexity, but also technological advances that touch every area of business (and life in general). Regulation becomes increasingly important, since the GDPR also for heretofore non-regulated industries. Transactional legal issues are no less complex, but increasingly there are widely established standards and technology reduces the human efforts required to close a deal. In this light, the challenges for the legal function are multi-faceted: legal has to fulfill the role of service provider, risk manager and business partner. KPIs become increasingly important to determine the success of the legal function. To meet all those challenges, inhouse lawyers have to adopt a selective sourcing strategy and divide the legal spend between traditional law firms, alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) and legal technology. This, in turn, is likely leading to a disruption of the market of traditional law firms. Professor Mari Sako expects alternative business models to ensue and advised to watch out for competition from ALSPs and the Big4.