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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance’s new report explores tomorrow’s legal function through its relationships

Leading international law firm Clifford Chance today launches its new report - Defining tomorrow’s legal function through its relationships. The report captures the views and insights from some of the world’s leading companies to help define the expectations and aspirations for in-house counsel. The report looks at how the role of in-house legal function is evolving to one that is more outward facing, internally connected and empowered by data and technology.

A selection of the report's highlights:

  • In-house legal teams’ relationship with data and technology is transforming all its other relationships
  • General counsels pointed to significant shifts in approaches to risk management, external advisers and the business
  • They also identified new relationships, such as the one with a company’s employees, that are a growing priority.

The firm worked with RSGi who interviewed in-house counsel and their teams from ten industry leading businesses. The report aims to start an ongoing discussion about their changing roles – how they currently operate and where they hope to be in 2025.

The legal function’s changing roles are examined through the prism of its relationships. An advisory board of senior general counsels from Walt Disney Company, Unilever, Nokia and DBS Bank identified eight key relationships with employees, stakeholders, knowledge, data and technology, the business, within the legal function, and external advisors. The goal for in-house legal functions is to identify how these relationships interconnect and become intentional, rather than incidental. This dynamic is captured in a new framework: the relationship model.

Partner Naomi Griffin says...

"The relationships of legal functions with other departments and with external stakeholders have become increasingly complex as they deal with data, technology and a much broader range of social and policy issues than in the past. 

At Clifford Chance we want to help facilitate conversations with clients and organisations to stay at the forefront of these challenges. This is an ongoing discussion, and we encourage other participants to take part. We will continue to gather data and insights using the report's methodology and make the findings public for the benefit of the industry.”

Key findings

  • Relationship with employees: Legal actively engages with employees on key policy decisions and plays a critical role in making the company a better place to work. 
  • Relationships with external stakeholders: Legal will develop a more external-facing role, leading in relationships with government and advocacy groups and interacting with customers directly.
  • Relationship with knowledge: The in-house legal team is a thought leader in its company, and within industry, government and society.
  • Relationship with data and technology: Legal’s data infrastructure is connected across the business and it is able to deliver business insights through better use of AI. Legal's value to the business is clearly measurable.
  • Relationship with the business: Lawyers are embedded in business units, reporting to the CLO, and many legal services are automated or self-service. 
  • Relationship with the legal function: Legal is multi-disciplinary and provides flexible career opportunities. It leads by example on the ESG agenda, including diversity and inclusion.
  • Relationship with external advisors: Relationships are still important but Legal has full oversight of its matters, and other metrics such as supplier diversity, with real-time reporting.
  • Relationship with risk management: Risk management will be driven by more effective use of data and move from compliance and ethics to integrity. 

Download the report and have your say on tomorrow's legal function.

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