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What does it mean to be a modern in-house counsel?

Traditionally, the ambit of an in-house counsel has been to understand risks, pain points and the strategic objectives of a company, and to offer legal advice accordingly. The modern legal world is changing, and that change is being generated by a fleet of forward-thinking in-house counsel who are shifting the perception of in-house from purely legal function to an incisive unit with a vital strategic presence.

The change is exemplified by in-house counsel moving from providing solely legal advice to also offering holistic commercial advice, amongst other things. More so than ever before, a vital component of an in-house counsel’s work is to be an expert not only in relevant areas of law, but also an expert in the companies they work for.

Matthew Brasch, Associate General Counsel at Buckle, believes a modern in-house counsel is "open to innovation and willing to try new methods of doing the work" while also being "a skilled attorney, knowledgeable in the business, an advisor, counselor, and sometimes a disciplinarian".

He says it is vital in-house counsel also recognize their industry is moving faster every day, demanding that they do the same, and that they must be a wearer of many hats who "actively seek ways to keep up with the speed of today's world".  

Sometimes keeping up means moving up, which has resulted in a shift into the boardroom for many in-house counsel due to their ability to leverage their knowledge and expertise, enabling key stakeholders to make decisions with confidence.

This ever-increasing scope of work has seen in-house counsel evolve from guardians to stewards, facilitating and guiding as opposed to just protecting. In turn providing vital strategic input to help maximize the value added by each business function.

Modern in-house counsel are innovators, forming a key part of a company's strategic core and driving adoption of legal tech and embracing new innovations to solve traditional problems.

Where previously, keeping up to date with changes in the regulatory and legal environments was sufficient, today's in-house legal team should be up to date on trends and emerging technology within the legal tech space. They should also be constantly surveilling the legal tech space for new and novel ways to augment their work with additional value.

Marija Dukadinovska, Legal Counsel at Kookai, defines a modern in-house counsel thus: "Being a modern in-house counsel is about being the best lawyer you can be in a truly holistic way, considering all facets of the company you are advising. It’s about moving away from just being an interpreter of the law to being a creative problem-solver and business enabler. You need to adapt your advice to the environment, the circumstances, and issues you’re facing rather than providing a one-size-fits-all approach."

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