GCs must offer ‘calm, considered’ guidance
In an ever-volatile market, there are certain boxes that general counsel must tick if they are to further the interests of their business, argues an award-winning GC.
In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, HMC Capital group general counsel and company secretary Andrew Selim – who recently won the General Counsel of the Year category at the 2022 Australian Law Awards – noted that, in the current, highly disrupted climate, he has learned that GCs need to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of the businesses they work for.
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Such an embrace helps make one a successful GC, he mused, among other approaches.
“Always foster a culture of momentum and never hinder the progress of your company’s business goals — because there is always a solution. In this type of environment, we also need to accept that we will never have all of the information we need — quickly connect the dots and try to make the right calls with the information available,” he outlined.
“However, at the end of the day, while all this is important, don’t measure your success by how wonderful your counsel to the CEO or the board is — ask yourself about how others will remember dealing with you and how you treated them. Make time to empathise and simply to listen.”
These approaches are critical, Mr Selim advised, given that the environment that GCs must help their businesses navigate has been “totally disrupted”.
“We and our legal teams need to reimagine ourselves and foster agility and resilience in all our decision-making. See risk management as an opportunity to create and protect value for your business — identify sources of uncertainty but also try to predict what’s around the corner without stifling entrepreneurial drive,” he suggested.
“Never use risk management to stall momentum — be an enabler, a trait that distinguishes a great GC from an average one.”
Moreover, Mr Selim went on, what businesses today regard as normal has changed forever.
“In this volatility, people come to their GC for calm, considered counsel who can listen, question, and test internal decision-making — and that is invaluable for the CEO, the board and for the broader organisation,” he submitted.
“The GC role is evolving to be one which needs to have the right mix of in-depth legal expertise, business insight and strategic know-how.
“If you have that, you can really further your company’s business. However, no one has that perfect blend from the start — it takes time, energy, and effort to develop and refine.”
Ultimately, and in support of these suggestions, the real opportunity for GCs on the horizon, Mr Selim espoused, is showing how much value one can add to the C-suite by showing everyone that one “can be creative, nimble, adaptable, and flexible during times like these but at the same time exercise great judgement”.
“Most businesses think of lawyers as obstructionists, but if you can demonstrate during these highly uncertain times that you can calmly facilitate solutions and make a way when all roads are blocked, you will be highly respected, appreciated and valued,” he said.
“It’s hard work but grasp that chance while you can!”
Elsewhere, and in reflection on what it means to him to have won the General Counsel of the Year category, Mr Selim said that he is “elated”.
“To be especially recognised by the Australian legal profession for my in-house leadership is an incredible privilege and blessing from God,” he said.
“As the very first GC at HMC Capital (previously known as Home Consortium) since we were founded six years ago, I have seen our rapid transformation from being an owner of shopping centres to being an ASX-listed, diversified alternative asset manager with almost $6 billion of assets under management (and growing!).
“That said, this win is not just about me — it is about everyone at HMC Capital who makes things happen.”