Erin E. Harrison, InsideCounsel Editor-in-Chief
Successful long-term relationships, whether professional or personal, require just the right amounts of respect, honesty, loyalty and commitment. However, in our business lives, we must forge relationships with others often out of necessity, which may not come as naturally. General counsel are essential players in building some very important relationships, and there is one connection in particular that has developed into a critical dynamic for businesses.
As an organization’s senior legal adviser and the ranking decision maker on finances, respectively, the GC and chief financial officer (CFO) form a collaborative team that not only mitigates risk, but does so in a way that pushes businesses to thrive in this era of heightened accountability and stakeholder expectations.
For our July cover story, I had the opportunity to speak with Don Liu, general counsel and secretary of Xerox Corporation, and Kathy Mikells, the company’s CFO. Liu and Mikells spoke candidly about the dynamics required for a successful GC-CFO relationship (p. 16) and how important this is in dealing with compliance issues, mergers and acquisitions, customer transactions and much more.
Another area where top inside counsel play an important role is in the boardroom. Boards must coexist with various regulatory bodies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and are increasingly concerned about today’s regulatory environment. Ed Silverstein drills down into the stepped-up efforts by the federal government, the risk of lawsuits looming on many fronts and why board members are now expected to be “gatekeepers” (p. 22). Even when relationships have an adversarial edge, mutual respect is the foundation for a successful partnership.
As the role of GC has evolved to encompass a more holistic level of involvement within organizations, InsideCounsel also looks at other important relationships relating to the areas of the legal department, including intellectual property, litigation and IT. For example, copyright holders must get along with consumers (p. 38); international businesses must form relationships with various government agencies (p. 32); and IT and legal must work together to prevent information breaches (p. 44).
As we begin to put together the August issue, another important relationship comes to mind: that of aspiring general counsel and the C-suite. Look for IC’s annual listing of the R3-100 next month when we feature some of the 100 women poised to become general counsel in the Fortune 500 within the next three years. The women recognized in the August issue will be invited to participate in the Mary Ann Hynes Leadership Institute in 2015.
Created by needs that are often bigger than any one person, business relationships can often force us to work alongside those we might avoid all together in a social context. But sometimes, forged within the fires of collective struggle, is the friendship you never saw coming.