The Economist General Counsel Summit | What makes a modern General Counsel?

Author Georgia Morgan-Wynne
November 13, 2023

The Economist General Counsel Summit 2023 shed light on the undeniable challenges that businesses are currently facing due to geopolitical forces, macroeconomic uncertainty and the pace of volatility that has intensified over the past 12 months. General Counsel are at the intersection of these complex economic factors, charged with navigating the organisation through turbulent times.

The evolving landscape requires General Counsel to adapt and upskill to the changing demands of the role. To help you meet these demands, we are sharing some key takeaways from the event that are particularly relevant to the modern role of a General Counsel.

Be a champion of culture

  • Live your business values to build the culture and resilience it needs – without these, strategy will fail
  • Guide the business in the importance of building trust with colleagues and customers
  • Lead by example – consistent transparency and integrity are key
  • Have multiple ways for employees to disclose issues and encourage a speak culture across the organisation
  • Be the conscience and voice for DEI and ESG – you have the unique position and power to make real change

Be the ”Chief Horizon Scanner”

  • Provide certainty in times of uncertainty
  • Continually up-skill to understand the myriad of risks across geopolitics, technology, cyber, climate and beyond so you can be ahead of future events and threats to your organisation
  • Make sense of risk by listening to your stakeholders, your employees, society and your critics
  • Peer around corners, assessing risks and adhering to company values in advising your business
  • Don’t remain in a silo – learn to work collaboratively internally and externally with partners, NGOs and even competitors on matters such as ESG

Lead with empathy and courage

  • Thrive by building a diverse and brilliant team
  • Foster an environment of psychological safety and collaboration
  • Empathy is a powerful leadership strength that can be learned
  • Courageous leadership is crucial, especially in times of pressure
  • Cultivate strategic thinking and maintain a curious mindset

Embrace the future and the role of technology

  • Experimentation is key so don’t be afraid to fail
  • Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
  • Utilise the power of reverse-education by encouraging collaboration between different generations of your in-house legal teams
  • Employ technology, which will enable lawyers to add more value at a strategic level by freeing them up to focus on novel and complex work
  • Explore generative AI and legal tech to influence the skill sets of future lawyers without decreasing the size of your team

Most General Counsel lawyers are wired to thrive in challenging times – this position is elevated in times of crisis.

As a modern General Counsel you need to possess strong leadership and communication skills, always be learning, remain curious and be willing to go beyond just advising on legal, risk and compliance to have the greatest impact.

If you would like to discuss these topics further or learn about the in-house market from a career move or hiring needs perspective, please email

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