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Breaking boundaries

Ever-changing regulations around the world dictate that legal departments operating in a global environment work seamlessly to be in full compliance across geographies and cultures

Erin E. Harrison, InsideCounsel Editor-in-Chief

Talent development,” “thought leader,” “Big Data,” “law department operations”— these are just a handful of buzzwords that have bounced around the industry this past decade. Here's a potential new one for you: “borderless.” It describes how today's global organizations operate beyond the limits of a country's perimeters and 9-to-5 hours.

Today's global businesses are operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week; while this is not a new phenomenon, ever-changing regulations around the world dictate that legal departments operating in a global environment work seamlessly to be in full compliance across geographies and cultures.

Deborah Platt Majoras knows well what it takes to deal with the legal intricacies facing global organizations. The former chair of the Federal Trade Commission and current chief legal officer and secretary of The Procter & Gamble Company spoke with InsideCounsel about a range of issues affecting global legal departments. Not only are regulatory issues a significant focus, but from a management perspective Majoras—who oversees about 325 lawyers, nearly 200 of whom are located outside of the U.S.—also has her hands full with coaching and formal training.

“The greatest challenge for our global legal department is to keep our arms wrapped around both our varying businesses and the myriad laws and regulations that apply to each jurisdiction,” Majoras shares with InsideCounsel readers in this issue's cover story.

This is not the first time we have explored the nuances of a borderless legal department. Earlier this year, I interviewed Suzanne Rich Folsom, general counsel of U.S. Steel, and she recounted her experiences working for international organizations that required a global mindset. As more Fortune 500 general counsel are poised for retirement in the next several years, there will no doubt be a continuation of what Folsom calls a sea change in the industry.

“The new GC has to be borderless...I am available 24/7, as are the people on my team…you have to be. There are issues that occur in the middle of night and you have to be ready to handle whatever they are,” Folsom said.

Related to this, I couldn't help but take note that many of the winners of this year's Transformative Leadership Awards (TLA) are operating in a borderless environment as well. This month, Majoras is one of seven honorees to be recognized at the prestigious awards event in Washington, D.C. as the unofficial kick-off of the annual Women, Influence & Power in Law conference. This year's honorees are pioneers not only in the legal industry, but also in their efforts in to advance talent development and business process engineering.

Interestingly, the progress honored at TLA shows a connection between the dissolution of time and geographic borders, and those of antiquated gender roles.

Progress, it seems, is always looking for the next boundary to break.

Editor in Chief

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Erin E. Harrison

Erin E. Harrison is the Editor in Chief of InsideCounsel magazine. Harrison’s professional background includes extensive expertise in both print and online media, highlighted by...

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