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What to do when the world goes mad

It is safe to say the world has well and truly thrown the kitchen sink at us over the past three years. Pier Luigi Lucatuorto shares his insights from these turbulent times and how they've impacted not only how to be a GC, but what the title even means.

In 1939, a slogan was developed by the British government to prepare its people for impending air raids. While the poster didn’t make it onto many walls, it now adorns T-shirts, web pages and memes as an expression of resilience. The slogan reads: “Keep calm and carry on.”

In-house counsel are no strangers to complexity as it is an inherent part of their trade: from multi-jurisdictional agreements to negotiations and the rest, on strict timelines, with high stakes and an expectation of quality that few other professions could match. To be an in-house counsel is to embody that 1939 slogan.

Pier Luigi Lucatuorto, InView Champion and General Counsel at Modula S.p.A, defines business complexity in the following way: “A business is 'complex' when the realization of its purposes needs to take into account multiple factors, both endogenous and exogenous to the business itself. The more factors that must be considered, and the more involved the organization is in considering these factors, the more complex the business is. I believe complexity cannot be prevented, rather just handled.”

True enough. Complexity knocked and the world answered. Pandemics, inflation, war and supply chain issues are having a profound impact on the way we work, in ways no one could have imagined.

This era of complexity is a call to arms for in-house counsel and GCs around the world, who have the added responsibility of helping their companies navigate these currently uncertain times on top of their already full plates.

“The role of the General Counsel is absolutely crucial in managing these complex issues, working side by side with top managers to support them in developing strategies to face the challenges brought by such complexities," says Lucatuorto.

“A GC has the merit of being a deep connoisseur of internal dynamics within the organization who also knows how to untangle external issues. The combination of these two features makes the GC the right professional to navigate the complexity because they are able to face external dynamics with the internal vision of the company.

“A GC's cross-cutting competence allows them to give suggestions and solutions even to issues that are only indirectly legal. Once a company understands this potential, they will allow themselves to be guided by the GC in the maze of complexity.”

Demonstrating that the best asset any GC can have is comfort with ambiguity as it enables them to apply that cross-cutting competence and to coolly and calmly steady the ship.  

It's that same slogan once more: Keep calm and carry on. In the face of uncertainty and complexity, the aforementioned enables any GC to approach challenges methodically and respond accordingly.

Lucatuorto believes the recent complexities have brought GCs into the spotlight and enabled them to showcase their true abilities: "The pandemic and additional complexities that have arisen, have given great visibility to the legal function. It is clear that GCs who have proven to be capable of managing complexity and the emergencies connected thereto, are increasingly well-considered by their colleagues, engendering trust. The recent events have expanded this vision. 'Have an issue? Tell your GC!'”

Yes, even in dire global circumstances there exists an ability to draw positives and to learn. The leadership shown by modern GCs during these times has created more trust and buy-in, enabling the legal function to become more connected and more effective.

When the world throws the kitchen sink at you, there is not much else to do but trust yourself and trust your team. Keep calm and carry on.

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