Power + responsibility: Three perspectives on GCs

Ben White, CEO, Crafty Counsel

Is there more that General Counsel can or should be doing to shape the environment around them? We recently published three interviews on Crafty Counsel with very different perspectives — but the common theme was that we are at an opportune moment for General Counsel to change the legal industry for the better. Will they take the opportunity?

Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support and Founder of the First 100 Years Project, would like to see clients shaping the diversity agenda. She wants them to push their suppliers to reflect the society they serve — and she’s not just talking law firms, but New Law and LawTech, too.

Alex Hamilton, CEO of Radiant Law, thinks the door is open for clients compel law firms to move away from time-based billing, and embrace fixed fee and other more predictable ways of charging for work. But he asks whether General Counsel are willing to put in the time and work to understand “what they want to buy” — and whether it’s simply easier for General Counsel (mostly trained in law firms) to chip away a bit at hourly rates and time-sheets. “Nobody seriously thinks the legal industry is innovating to any great degree… and , remarkably, things keep getting more expensive for clients, not cheaper.”

And, leadership consultant Ciaran Fenton reflects on the Mayson Review of Legal Services Regulation. The review, published in June, raised questions over how independent in-house lawyers can really be of their employers. It noted that, “In-house lawyers have to be able to sound alarm bells without the chilling effect of potential reprisal”, and recommended that General Counsel have a direct reporting line to the Board guaranteed in their employment contracts. Ciaran discusses the finding with us — and calls on General Counsel to join the debate over how in-house lawyers should be regulated.

If you’re an in-house lawyer, I’d love to hear your perspective. Is it the job of General Counsel to push for diversity in their supplier base? Are you happy with the fee arrangements of your law firms, and do you think it’s your role to change them? Should you have the right to go around your CEO and raise concerns directly with the Chair or Board, if you have them? I’d love to know — and we’ll be happy to publish your views on Crafty Counsel.