General Counsel Responsibilities of the Extended Enterprise

The role of the General Counsel has evolved considerably to include important risk management and business decision-making responsibilities.

5 December 2014


General Counsels (GCs) may soon, or already be, face-to-face with an information conundrum.

The role of the GC has evolved considerably over the last few years. As organizations have transformed into collaborative enterprises full of information, GCs responsibilities’ have broadened to include important risk management and business decision-making tasks.

The Progression of Extended Enterprises

To fully grasp why in-house lawyers’ roles have shifted from only providing legal advice to also becoming key parts of the strategic decision making process, one must first look at how companies are evolving into “extended enterprises.”

As global competition drives business specialization, companies have started working with a network of partners to quickly bring their solutions to market (rather than conducting all business activities in-house). As part of this extended enterprise, legal contracts are required to get new partnerships on board — which is where the legal team comes in. Groups within extended enterprises must collaborate regularly to maintain efficiency, and often times, share information with external partners that are geographically dispersed — which increases the risk of information exposure and non-compliance with data privacy regulations across regions.

Organizations Seek Legal Advice

Knowing that regulatory compliance is part of greater information management and governance control, organizations are seeking the advice of GCs to help them make the right business decisions — adding to the GCs' content management, security and governance burdens. In many instances, legal departments are brought into discussions before solutions are fully launched to assess potential risks up front. This is a significant change for lawyers who are used to being called in after the fact to address a problem. Companies using outside counsel for help in regulatory investigations increased in the U.S. (from 55 percent in 2011, to 60 percent in 2012), according to a 2013 Fulbright survey. And it’s expected that litigation matters will jump too, says a BTI Premium Practices Forecast 2014 paper.

In the role of GC, it’s imperative to get a clear picture of the company’s information sharing processes to ensure effective document control and compliance. With stringent privacy and compliance regulations impacting how legal information is managed, GCs are under constant pressure to ensure that documents are managed judiciously to avoid risk.

Security Risks Surge as Globalization Increases

As enterprises become more collaborative, and the need to share information externally increases, businesses are adopting collaboration platforms to securely and compliantly manage sensitive corporate data. But not all collaboration solutions are alike. The right solution should have strong document control, information security, and information rights management to properly protect data wherever it travels.

Legal departments have likewise changed their operating models to speed up internal processes, better manage documents, improve collaboration, and ensure compliance with geographically dispersed teams. To do so effectively, legal teams have realized that they too need a specialized, enterprise-grade collaboration platform. At Intralinks, we help corporate legal teams easily manage critical information across their extended enterprise through a secure, controlled repository for legal content management and exchange. To understand how GCs are meeting the risk and decision making challenges in today’s collaborative enterprise environment, we've put together some helpful file sharing and collaboration resources for legal teams.

In our next post, we'll share a few ways how legal departments today are using enterprise collaboration solutions to increase efficiency and maintain strong information control and governance. Stay tuned!