Through the looking glass – KPMG

Through the looking glass

How corporate leaders view the General Counsel of today and tomorrow.

All senior executives worth their salt occupy a hot seat. They know that the fortunes of the company rest on their ability to excel. But some seats are hotter than others. All eyes are on the chief executive officer (CEO) when things go right or wrong.

The chairman of the board has an onerous fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. But the general counsel (GC), sometimes titled the chief legal officer, occupies a unique role on the fulcrum of risk and opportunity. He or she must protect the brand and, at the same time, help to enhance its value.

In this global study of the role of the GC, for the first time we ask corporate leaders from outside the legal function about their views on the position. This marks a 180-degree change in perspective. Our previous reports were based on the views of the GC. In our first worldwide survey of GCs, published in 20121 , we showed how GCs are moving, in some cases boldly, beyond the confines of the law to assume more responsibility for business strategy.

KPMG’s second report on GCs in 20142 examined the impact of globalization and future trends on the role of a company’s chief legal officer.

Our interviews were centered around three key criteria:

1. How the GC adds most value to the work of the board of directors and to the business more generally.

2. How corporate leaders expect the GC position to change over the next 5–10 years.

3. How GCs can add even greater value in the future.

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