We all know that the role of general counsel has fundamentally changed over the years. From having once focused on traditional provision of legal advice, general counsel expanded into risk management and have now sealed their presence in corporate strategy work.

Legal 500 recently interviewed 4700 European general counsel and legal directors for their Client Intelligence Report. The report is good reading for anyone interested in taking the pulse of the general counsel profession.

Top 3 Challenges Facing European General Counsel Today

European general counsel and legal directors identified three challenges above all else:

  1. Global economic stress (51.9%) was the greatest challenge facing their companies at the moment.
  2. Increased regulation (45.6%) was a close second.
  3. Expansion into new territories (35.7%).

The research further showed that 86.7% of the European respondents stated that the legal team had deepened its interaction with the business in the last 12 months. With the above challenges at hand, this is a must.

With the current regulatory tsunami—where just keeping track of all the abbreviations, such as SDGs, BEPS, MIFID, MAR or FATCA is already a challenge—showing no sign of abating, the role of the in-house lawyer today has rapidly evolved to become a key strategic ally of the company. In-house lawyers need to be more proactive: it is not enough to be aware of current regulation, as companies need to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

Those in-house lawyers who are able to not only identify the risks, but also the business opportunities that may be hidden in upcoming regulation, can help their companies to align their strategy and even find significant competitive advantages. This new role is also confirmed by the Legal 500 research, which shows that general counsel see themselves today primarily as enablers aligned to business strategy.

Nordic Trends

While all of this is very much in line with what we hear when talking to Nordic general counsel and legal directors, there is another clear trend among Nordic lawyers. The research showed that they have often become responsible for functions other than purely legal one within the past 12 months. Most have taken on responsibilities in compliance, governance, enterprise risk management and company secretarial work.

The difficult global economic environment since 2008 has put pressure on many Nordic companies. For legal teams, this has meant that they have had to shift increasing amounts of legal work from their outside counsel to be done in-house and have also had to take on additional tasks.

GC Powerlist 2016 Nominations Are Now Open

It has always been difficult for general counsel to demonstrate the value of their legal teams. How do you quantify risks avoided or costs mitigated? While it is still nigh impossible to put a euro figure on a legal department’s value, general counsel and legal directors, having now marched to the front line of corporate strategy, may finally not have to file much more evidence of their value.

As the challenges for general counsel and legal directors are becoming increasingly complex and their work more business critical, we are very pleased that Legal500 is now providing the opportunity to recognise people who are genuinely the forerunners in their profession.

Last year was the first time general counsel and legal directors were ranked in the Nordics, and we were truly proud to see four of our former colleagues among the people ranked in Finland!

The GC Powerlist 2016 is now looking for Finnish corporate counsel who have been instrumental in:

  • changing or forming opinions within their company or industry;
  • developed brilliant technical solutions to complex issues;
  • created innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or
  • providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow.

As the official partner of the GC Powerlist 2016 in Finland, we encourage everyone to actively participate in the nomination process, which is open at until end of May. And of course, it goes without saying that we hope to see many of the skilled Finnish general counsel we know ranked this year!