general counsel role is changing

The following is a guest post by Prashant Dubey of Sumati Group.

“A General Counsel is a business person first and a lawyer second, not a lawyer that understands the business but a business person that happens to be a lawyer.” Marla Persky, former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Boehringer Ingelheim summed it up quite well when describing how the role of a General Counsel has evolved.

This description is quite relevant when trying to think about why General Counsel are increasingly driving enterprise wide initiatives such as Contract Lifecycle Management. Of course, there are the obvious ones. General Counsel are the principal risk managers in companies and contracts contain most of the material obligations of a company. Not fulfilling these obligations creates organizational risk and not ensuring that counter-parties are fulfilling their obligations to your own company is also risky. Further, contracts contain information that demonstrates that a company is acting in good faith to fulfill any compliance or regulatory related duties by taking the time to codify these obligations in a formal document.

It’s More than Risk Management

However, what about driving revenue and organizational performance? How about contracting the cycle time for contracting? Speeding the time to revenue? Managing spend? Driving vendor convergence? Look up any law school curricula and none of these topics make the cut. So, why are General Counsel driving Contract Management initiatives that are focused on answering these questions and achieving these goals?

contract management

Come for the Talk, Stay for the Book

At Apttus Accelerate 2016, I will be speaking on the topic of” Why your General Counsel is interested in Contract Management.” In case you can’t make it – here’s the answer: because it’s good for their career! This talk will excerpt themes from the market leading book The Generalist Counsel: How Leading General Counsel are Shaping Tomorrow’s Companies and put forth a hypothesis that General Counsel are natural champions for Contract Management. By the way, all attendees will get a complimentary copy of the book. Further, if General Counsel are not driven by their own career development to embrace contract management – pressures such as Corporate Integrity Agreements in healthcare organizations or audit committees of boards asking for “the total value of all material obligations held by the company” or the next M&A deal will naturally pull them toward contract management.

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The Legal Industry Oscars!

In addition, this talk will outline some of the characteristics of leading General Counsel that position them perfectly for leading a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional initiative such as contract management. Through detailed interviews with General Counsel of companies such as Pfizer, NIKE, Hertz, Walgreens, Medtronic, Columbia Sportswear, Conway, Glaxo Smith-Kline, Metlife and others, the talk will chronicle how the role of General Counsel has evolved and how this has positioned them perfectly for leading an initiative that blends technology with people and process, puts in a dash of alternate sourcing models, some change management, data integration, compliance, customer profitability and even topped off with sales cycle times.

Attendees will be regaled with personal stories of some of the legal industry’s true rock stars and will be encouraged that such tenured leaders are deeply interested in contract management for very legitimate reasons. Further, if a General Counsel is not driving or deeply involved in contract management, this talk will identify key leverage points to get them to pay attention. In house counsel, sourcing professionals, technologists and contract administrators alike will hear about trends that are occurring in their own organizations and will take solace in shared pain, successes and opportunities to influence the General Counsel of their company.

As Megan Trainor would say…“it’s all about those dates, ‘bout those dates…”

Contract Lifecycle management has some foundational components that may not seem very interesting to the layperson. High integrity contract repositories with contract documents properly organized into parent-child hierarchies, with metadata that enables obligation management, compliance, spend management and risk management have become topics that spur meetings with General Counsel not only in attendance but actively participating. General Counsel opining on the importance of attorney eyes on every contract document for the purposes of ensuring that metadata such as the expiration date of a contract is extracted accurately, that it represents the true language of the contract and is reconciled with parent-child relationships between contract documents are frequently watershed moments in a contract lifecycle management implementation.

The Evolution of the Techno-Lawyer

The changing role of the General Counsel has driven them to not only understand technology but to embrace it as an enabler. Contract Lifecycle Management software is often sought by General Counsel to not only put in place a high integrity “source of truth” contract repository but also to be a better service provider to the business. Automating contract creation and inserting the legal department in a “just good enough” way is a key strategy to shorten the time to revenue but also change the perception that the corporate legal department is the “sales prevention department.” This type of internal marketing is part of the role of the evolved General Counsel – one that realizes that she needs to lead the charge for her lawyers to be perceived as true partners by the business, not gatekeepers.

Top Tech Trends Impacting Legal & Contract Management

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Finally, I suspect Jay Leno won’t be attending my talk, but if you come to my talk, I may ask him to give you a ride in one of his cars!

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