General Counsel In The 21st Century
The role of GCs and legal departments has undergone a complete transformation in the last two decades not only in India but across the globe. This is because the expectations of businesses have been complete change. Today’s GCs are expected to be knowledgeable in legal disciplines and business savvy. They are expected to contribute positively towards the development and expansion of business. Additionally, they are expected to develop professional skills and knowledge in the newer areas of law and to act as mentors to young professionals, retention of whom has become a challenge. Expectations from today’s GCs and legal departments are that of a business manager who understands the business and the problems/issues surrounding it and also assists the business to resolve challenges. Gone are the days when the legal department held no accountability to resolve complexities and challenges in a business, especially from the legal point of view.
How do a General counsel and Legal Department can help the organisation facing corporate litigation risks? How the litigations can be avoided.
I suggest the avoidance of litigation because it is expensive, time–consuming, and bad for the image. I always recommend taking preventive action to avoid litigation. This can be achieved by preparing properly and legally enforceable legal documents at the beginning and looking for early warning signals to avoid litigation. I support the preparation of dispute resolution policy not only for conducting litigation but also how to avoid it. Getting adverse publicity in case of litigation is a major risk. Restoring arbitration is a viable alternative that should be promoted. Such arbitration has its own challenges, but in today’s world arbitration is highly preferred. However, before the arbitration companies should seriously and sincerely thank formal and informal mediation so that even lengthy and costly arbitration can be avoided. The attitude should be to resolve problems and not create them within the four corners of the law.
What do you consider to be the biggest legal challenges most firms may face? Why?
Today’s GCs need to be constant learners, with the objective to apply their knowledge to the benefit of their organizations. Understanding geopolitical and its implications have become crucial. GCs need to take a keen interest in this area and advise organizations on the possible risk of doing business in sanctioned countries and with sanctioned Specially Designated Nationals (SDN). In this turbulent yet interconnected globalized world, geopolitics plays a major role in doing business in many countries. There are more than 50 odd countries in which sanctions are being imposed by the US, UK, and the European Union. Understanding them and taking business decisions in light of the regulations pose challenges.
How a General Counsel implements Corporate Governance law in the Company and avoids financial crime?
In the last 20 years, the role of GCs has become more around developing the compliance mechanism inside the organizations. It has become the duty of the General Counsel to handle Legal matters as well as to give importance to corporate governance and compliance as well. Under the Companies Act, corporate governance on paper is strong, but it still is not embedded in our DNA. Because of the international integration of business outside, one has to not only incorporate corporate governance but also keep human rights policies in place in order to do business. One has to go through a transition in corporate governance in my view is a change in mindset to bring in transparency. We as GCs develop a good governance system in the organization to avoid financial crimes.
As indicated by your recent seminar, What is the agile thing on the importance of Rule of Law based International Order to deal with conflicts.?
In today’s civilized world, the expectation is that there will be Rule based International Order (IO). We have the United Nations which is the home of around 200 countries. Any difference between the countries should be sorted in the United Nations by way of dialogue. any bilateral issue can be resolved diplomatically and bilaterally. all this help prevent armed conflicts. As the Indian PM has said “Today’s Era Is Not An Era Of War” and any conflict should be resolved through dialogue diplomacy and deliberations. Overall there will be an impact by sanctions and voluntary stopping of business. It is expected that the rest of the world believes in international law driven by the Rule of Law.