A General Counsel Attorney is the chief legal person or lawyer working in the legal department of a private company or a governmental department. The person holding this position in a company usually reports directly to the CEO or the Chief Executive Officer, and the duties involve overseeing and handling the legal issues in all the departments. The key role of a general counsel is to provide legal services to the corporation as a whole and not individually to the corporation’s officers and directors.
The role of a general counsel, in a corporation, is determined by a number of factors relating to the client, such as the size of the corporation, the area or industry where it operates, and even the region where it operates. It is because a manufacturing company needs different things than a service company needs from its general counsel, and it is likely that large companies make more demands on their general counsels than the smaller ones. Despite the differences in the client, it is the responsibility of the general counsel to give the best possible legal services and maintain consistency. The board members of a company should try to reach out to the general counsel attorney frequently seeking their advice and maintain a healthy relationship for better work.
The General Counsel Attorney must address and mitigate potential legal problems by analyzing the legal perspective.
6 Key Duties of a General Counsel Attorney
Nowadays, corporations want the general counsel to be a more prominent part of the business and to take up a more integral role in the affairs of the company. The position of a general counsel attorney is considered to be as important as a CEO or a CFO. The general counsel represents a corporation in its legal matters and in performing this function it performs the following 6 key duties:
- To ensure that the corporation has a compliance program: The government comes up with different regulations for corporations from time to time, and it is the duty of the general counsel attorney to ensure that there is an adequate compliance program for the corporation made so that all the compliances are adhered to. It is common in a business environment to conform to the laws, regulations and rules which are referred to as corporate compliances. It involves keeping a watch on an ever-changing legal and regulatory climate of the country and making the necessary changes for the business to continue in conformation with the existing law. The general counsel attorney has to ensure that all legal compliances are followed by all the departments of the corporation.
- Identify and Assess Risks: With the increasing complexity of modern corporations, the general counsel attorney’s role becomes even more important role as he has to manage all the major risks that might be faced by the company. Every corporation enters into contracts with other corporations that are legally binding on both, so the terms of the contract need to be clear without any hidden legal obligations. The general counsel checks the contracts for any possible future obligations that might put the corporation at risk and also checks for other potential risks and mitigates risks throughout the organisation.
- Manages Litigation: A corporation cannot escape the litigation process but can only reduce it with the help of its attorneys. Litigation can be very expensive and can hinder the normal business of the corporation if not properly managed. The general counsel attorney ensures that any pending litigation ends quickly without many costs and ensures that the corporation is not affected in any way. He conducts legal research and reviews the corporation's litigation strategies pertaining to all legal actions.
- Review of Corporation’s Licensing Practices: Licensing involves permissions to use patents, copyrights or alike of other corporations. A license gives the right to manufacture or process the products or service of others. The general counsel attorney makes sure that the corporation’s licenses are up to date, and nothing is done that leads to violation of any legal rule.
- Propose new laws and regulations: It is the duty of the general counsel attorney to suggest new rules or amend previous rules of the organisation that conform to the laws of the country. Changes are to be made that are in the best interest of the corporation and protect it from getting into serious adverse consequences due to certain legal obligations. There are various laws like labour laws, unfair trade practices, employment rules and alike that need to be made to adhere to the legal standards set by the law.
- Due diligence of acquisitions and mergers: Corporations expand by acquiring or merging with other organisations for diversification, growth and value creation. It is the duty of the general counsel attorney to ensure that the investment is beneficial and will give expected results. Due diligence of the acquisition or merger contract will reveal all important facts and potential liabilities which will help the organisation in making an informed decision.
The general counsel attorney has a duty towards the corporation as a whole. A general counsel is expected to take measures that protect the corporation, which is the actual client. The role of a general counsel is more than just a legal technician whose job is to guess which business strategies will not attract legal consequences and will not violate any law. There is more to his role than just good lawyering which adds more value to the business. Therefore, a suitable general counsel attorney provides great quality legal services at the most affordable prices in a client-friendly way while meticulously maintaining an impregnable record for integrity and ethical behaviour.