As the winner of the ‘General Commercial Individual of the Year’ at the 2016 Global Counsel Awards, we asked Patricia Prince-Taggart, senior vice president, chief counsel at CA Inc, her opinion on what it takes to be a successful in-house counsel, the best way to advise senior leadership and what winning the award meant to her.
Describe your current role (responsibilities, size of team, structure).
I run the global practice for all field lawyers and contract managers in 19 different countries across the world. While our focus is mainly transactional, licensing our technology to the Fortune 500, we also provide advice and counsel to senior management on corporate compliance, revenue recognition, antitrust, M&A , integration in relation to acquisitions, distribution, service and support and employment matters, and all issues relating to the company’s most strategic relationships.
What led you to a career in-house?
Funnily enough, originally I thought that moving in-house 25 years ago would give me a more balanced work-life. But my responsibilities and the teams have grown, so I am working more, travelling more and loving it.
In your current role, what is the most challenging situation that you have faced? What are the most significant challenges that in-house lawyers are likely to face over the next few years?
As a global company the rate and pace of change is astounding. Five years ago few companies had licensed ‘software as a service’ services, and even fewer had a chief information security officer. Schrem and Snowden became lightning rods for multinational companies to evaluate and re-evaluate their policies and practices on data privacy, security and cyber threats. I do not think that is going to change anytime soon.
Every in-house lawyer must understand where the company’s data is and who can access it. Lawyers must be sensitive to issues of protecting customer privacy and enhancing trust in the solutions they deliver. At the same time, the lawyers must understand the rules changing within the European Union, in particular relating to the safe harbour, privacy shield, model clauses and binding corporate rules.
Are there particular types of legal issues that you routinely refer to outside counsel? And what kind of matters do you tend to handle in-house?
We are fortunate to have to refer only litigation and tax litigations to outside counsel. We have made the investment of having more internal lawyers. This can increase our fixed costs, and sometimes the perception from the business is that we have too many lawyers, but the benefit is that our in-house team can help earlier in the business cycle and reduce exposure and risks longer term.
What do you consider to be the essential qualities for a successful in-house lawyer?
For me, I think there are two qualities. First, the person must be curious – asking questions, wanting to understand the whys and hows. Second, he or she must be “in the business”. By that I mean that lawyers must be business practical and want to be part of the process and solution. If we are consulted only about the legal issues, we are not really adding value. The business can pick up the phone and call outside counsel.
What’s important for in-house counsel to consider when advising senior leadership?
Again, I think senior executives, regardless of function, must be able to see the bigger picture. The lawyer must be able to provide context on the business situation with a legal perspective, but not only the legal view. You would not expect the chief financial officer only to offer advice on the cost, so why should in-house counsel be any different?
How does the legal department contribute to your company’s growth?
At the micro level in the field, when we are focused on our transactional work we try to find ways to iterate less, meaning less paper churn and hopefully transactions moving through our systems more quickly. At a macro level, we are thinking about the risk profiles of our customers, CA and the industry. We try to draft new paperwork and processes that are as frictionless as possible, so there are fewer touch points.
With regard to your industry, are there any significant developments worth highlighting?
In this application economy and digitalisation world, companies must move quickly and, with this rapid pace, they must be willing to take on more risk. Lawyers are in the business of risk mitigation. And if in-house counsel can be agile and also show business value, we can be much more effective for the business long term.
If not a lawyer, what would you be?
As hokey as this sounds, I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was 10. But I guess if I was not a lawyer, I would like to think I would be in the high-tech space – maybe even a chief executive officer.
What did winning a Global Counsel Award mean to you?
The best part was that I was able to have almost all my direct reports globally with me at the event to share that moment. The award was validation for our team that we are focused and aiming in the right direction. I believe that without the work we have done as a department, I would not have been in a position even to be nominated.
The purpose of the Global Counsel Awards is to identify those in-house counsel, both teams and individuals that excel in their specific roles. The primary aim is to reward lawyers for demonstrable achievements across the full spectrum of in-house responsibility, not simply those who have acted on high-profile transactions. To make a nomination for the 2017 awards please click here.
For further information on the awards, please visit www.globalcounselawards.com.