The general counsel occupies a unique role on the fulcrum of risk and opportunity. He or she must protect the brand and, at the same time, help to enhance its value. In this report, we obtain a fresh perspective on this ever-changing, demanding position.
All senior executives worth their salt occupy a hot seat. They know that the fortunes of the company rest on their ability to excel. But some seats are hotter than others. All eyes are on the chief executive officer (CEO) when things go right or wrong. The chairman of the board has an onerous fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. But the general counsel (GC), sometimes titled the chief legal officer, occupies a unique role on the fulcrum of risk and opportunity. He or she must protect the brand and, at the same time, help to enhance its value.
In this global study of the role of the GC, for the first time we ask corporate leaders from outside the legal function about their views on the position. This marks a 180-degree change in perspective. Our previous reports were based on the views of the GC. In our first worldwide survey of GCs, published in 20121, we showed how GCs are moving, in some cases boldly, beyond the confines of the law to assume more responsibility for business strategy. KPMG’s second report on GCs in 20142 examined the impact of globalization and future trends on the role of a company’s chief legal officer.
Now, in this third report, we have turned the tables to talk to other corporate leaders about the GC’s role. Instead of asking GCs to look in the mirror, we go through the looking glass to obtain a fresh perspective on this ever-changing, demanding position. We interviewed a total of 34 business leaders from around the world, including board members, chief executive officers, chairmen, non-executive directors and chairmen of audit committees, based in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.