Beyond legal acumen: 5 must-have skills in today’s business landscape

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Major technological and geopolitical disruption is rapidly changing the responsibilities of the general counsel, a study has found. The challenging climate has also put more pressure on GCs to develop skills that are beyond just understanding legal issues of their organisations.

“General counsel are starting to function more like business partners, becoming deeply involved in strategy and risk management,” said Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer at Forbes Media.

Forbes, in association with global law firm K&L Gates, surveyed 200 general counsel and non-legal senior executives of some of the largest manufacturing companies in Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Poland, and Spain for its new report, “General Counsel in the Age of Disruption.”

Ask what competencies are most required of them beyond understanding legal issues, 52% said international and geopolitical acumen, 43% identified understanding of business issues, 40% named predictive thinking and analytics, 33% singled out industry knowledge, and 32% selected change-management acumen.

GCs of the companies, 82% of which had revenues of €1bn or more, said that their roles have changed most by having a more international outlook (42%), having to deal with much higher stakes such as penalties and lawsuits (33%), having more say in business and strategy issues (30%), being much more forward-looking or predictive (29%), and covering more areas of law (28%).

In terms of areas of legal expertise they predict will be most needed over the next three years, the top five areas are: international and trade laws (55%), policy regulations and cybersecurity (47% each), competition and antitrust (45%), data protection (41%), and intellectual property (40%).

The report also examined how factors individually and in combination - such as regulation, emerging technologies, geopolitical shifts and global expansion - have changed and continue to change the role of general counsel, said Tony Griffiths, K&L Gates’ European managing partner.

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