Several key steps can direct legal department lawyers down the path to business partnership

The advantages of taking a blended approach

One of the real benefits of being a general counsel is the opportunity to blend a role as legal counsel with that of strategic business adviser. I have given some thought over the past few months about how to wear these multiple hats and how to develop a legal team that also gets comfortable with this dual role without over-identifying with the business team. There are a few key ingredients to developing this comfort, but we should never lose sight of our role as gatekeeper and our obligation to promote a culture of compliance and ethics.

Clear understanding and alignment on risk tolerance. As my team and I begin to prepare for 2014, we are first stepping back and ensuring we understand what the near-, medium- and long-term goals of our business are and how this blends with corporate strategy. Our goal is to support our company’s growth and—to the extent of continued entry into emerging markets—M&A or other high-risk/high-reward items that are part of these business plans. We also work to ensure that we understand not only the risk tolerance of the business, but also any potential shifts in the risk tolerance of the corporation as a result, so that we either keep up with these shifts or discuss the implications of the same with the management team and the board of directors.

A. Verona Dorch

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