Adrian Goss, general counsel at Bauer Media, took over leadership of the group formerly known as ACLA after its merger with the Association of Corporate Counsel and rebranding as ACC Australia.
Mr Goss suggested a general counsel could become more influential within an organisation by focussing on close relationships with other staff.
“Build the relationships with the key people,” he said. “You need to get out of your office and out from behind your emails and get in front of people to build those personal relationships.”
He suggested in-house teams ensure they engage with a range of staff and departments to fully understand the needs of the organisation.
“Take the time to build interpersonal relationships across the business and, as part of that, listen to people across the business – what are the issues they are addressing? What are the challenges they face?” he said.
In addition, he pointed to a number of strategies general counsel can use to grow their footprint, including measuring and reporting back on the team’s contribution to strategy.
He cited ACLA’s 2015 Benchmarks and Leading Practices Report, which found 55 per cent of legal teams measure and report on their operations but just 41 per cent report on the strategic value they deliver.
“An obvious way to grow influence is to demonstrate the way legal is contributing to the strategic vision and reporting on that is a critical element of demonstrating that value and that contribution to the strategic vision,” he said.
Similarly, he encouraged teams to share legal knowledge within the business more widely, for example, through a legal issues newsletter.
“Taking opportunities to demonstrate expertise and sharing knowledge within the business [is important], partly because that empowers the business, but partly because it demonstrates the knowledge and value the legal team has,” he said.
Ultimately, he suggested general counsel could play a vital role in corporate strategy.
“All GCs aspire to be trusted advisers to the board and the chief executive – that's what general counsel are aiming to be,” he said.
“I think it's important for a general counsel to be involved in strategic planning, particularly when they work in regulated sectors because strategy is driven so much by the regulatory environment in which businesses operate.”