Queens Speech navigating the opportunities for GCs

Originally published on 2 July 2015 by Bruce Macmillan, Director of Centre for Legal Leadership

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Bruce Macmillan on 19/04/17

In the first blog in this series of three I commented on the mass of ambiguous law that is coming towards us over the next five years of this parliamentary term.

I suggested that our Success and Personal energy levels will be determined, almost like a maths formula, by the extent to which we can maximise the Opportunities that this presents for us, for our teams and for our businesses, and to minimise the Threats.

In this blog I concentrate on the Opportunities that may arise from a world where my personal roots in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, "residual England" and, even, possibly Cornwall(?!) become increasingly devolved and, potentially, less European over the balance of our working lives.

Steering the course

The GC's role is increasingly seen as being like that of the navigator of a ship; plotting the safest route for the CEO/Captain between legal cliffs and regulatory sandbanks and then keeping the current position and the best forecast route continually up to date as the voyage progresses. 

When the route is clear and simple then the value that we can add is low – when the route is complex and the situation fast changing then the value that we can add is high (but so are the risks of being too slow or simply getting it wrong).

As Jonathan Watmough said in his recent blog: "The GC who knows their business well– both its current state and its future plans - and whose legislative awareness is good, may spot the deal making or contract exit opportunities that are presented and be able to demonstrate real, tangible £ of “value add” that the legal department’s proactive and strategic view can bring."

This is clearly correct.  At a personal level the strategic, business aware GC can use their knowledge of the business and its plans to filter the mass of primary and secondary; and national and regional legislation that is coming towards us and spot the opportunities afforded by the new legislation and the costs and risks to avoid…

…thinking about your contact centre office lease renewal in Glasgow - with different Scottish employment taxes to come - do you renew, take more space, or leave…?

…Is the new warehouse better inside Manchester's M60 ring road or outside or elsewhere in the new Northern Powerhouse from a business rates and development incentives perspective?

Demonstrating value

It may not take many of these sorts of legal inputs to the business before you have paid for your department's costs in savings made or costs avoided – a real and tangible "value –add"!  And just supposing that you had also planned ahead to contribute to consultations which shape the central government or local legislation in "the right way"?

Of course this may need a different budget, staff size and skills set and external adviser group than you have now to allow you to meet these challenges - so get your business case for this change ready for your CEO and CFO sooner rather than later!

What's your risk appetite?

You may also want to help the business to review its risk appetite around these changing areas.  What is the business' view on long term relationships with EU or Scottish or Welsh customers and suppliers, its currency hedging, the allowable reasons for price uplift in the contract, the cost effectiveness of its labour cost driven outsource to Scotland?  It might be that long term commitments for maximum value are less important than the flexibility to break a contract early…

And with change comes business opportunity – direct and indirect whether it be a prime or sub contract role on HS2; or selling new speed limit signs in Wales as the assembly exercises that new devolved power; there are many new areas of selling opportunity being flagged in the speech – but exactly when and where will come down to the legislation – which a good GC will be spotting as the legislation is being made and highlighting to their business colleagues.

Some of these opportunities are going to emerge from new public bodies that have not previously commissioned them – both a first mover opportunity and a challenge as first time commissioners grapple with the legislative framework within which they have to operate – fancy negotiating a bus franchise with a metro mayor?

Again the well positioned legal department that looks and plans ahead and thinks strategically and proactively can play a crucial and value added role for your business.

Navigators it's time to get out your charts!

In the final of this series of three blogs I look at Threats – the sandbanks in our way…

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