The GC Powerlist returns for its fifth annual report after launching back in 2013 and once more the format has evolved. While partially returning to the rising star model we used back in 2014, the 2017 edition has become a two-hander under the unifying title, The Clients of Tomorrow.
On one hand we have, following months of research, identified 55 outstanding individuals working at established companies active in the UK. This group is focused primarily on the in-house counsel fast establishing themselves in the middle ranks of their teams, typically in their 30s or early 40s. …read more
But, in a departure, the second strand of the research focuses on high-growth companies with the prospects to be the global giants of tomorrow. These are largely, though not exclusively, businesses underwritten by technology. As such some of the conventional measures of success have to be adjusted. Many of the businesses we cite already have nine or even ten-figure valuations despite having relatively small revenues and staff rosters. But growth, and the potential to shake up their industry, marks them out as names to watch and clients to covet.
The revolution in legal teams and the role of in-house counsel at plcs has already been widely chronicled – but the recent emergence of ultra-fast-growth companies that can turn an industry on its head in half a decade means we are only beginning to gauge how in-house counsel will evolve for the age of Uber. (One early indication is the recent formation of the new networking and support group, Disruptive GCs, for the lawyers operating in such environments.)
Not only do such lawyers have nothing like the support or specialist skills enjoyed by their brethren in bluechip-land, they often face huge regulatory challenges in businesses that are either way in front of established law, or are attracting antagonism from national agencies (tech-driven businesses tending to cross borders and inflame local interests).
Researching across such wide-ranging sectors and institutions is obviously not an exact science, though we dedicate substantial editorial resources to this report. Even with months of research, there will clearly be many talented individuals and companies to watch that have escaped our notice. But we feel confident that the names included in this report constitute some of the most promising in the legal industry, and many that will be defining the UK and European legal market in the next ten years and more.
How successfully City law firms, who are in the main used to focusing on large, bureaucratic businesses, manage to adapt to such institutions and a new breed of emerging general counsel with different values to the generation before them, will do much to separate the winners from the losers in the legal industry.
Editor-in-chief, Legal Business and The In-House Lawyer
In the meantime, in-house counsel continue to assert themselves across such new terrain. Many are only getting started.
2016. The year that turned the world on its head. And when the world is spinning on that axis too, you can bet your bottom euro that good lawyers will be at the heart of the action.
It is also a safe wager that the lawyers featured in the pages of this year’s GC Powerlist are the ones who are best at navigating their organisations through what are now very unpredictable economic, social and political waters.
Lawyers from both in-house and private practice are in an enviable position right now, in the UK at least, to prove what they can contribute to the businesses they support.
Once very much the preserve of US corporates, the phenomenon of the lawyer as integral to the c-suite has become less of an oddity in the UK over the last five years. The more progressive, higher-performing general counsel (GCs) now occupy what is increasingly a business role – being the ‘general counsel’ and not just the ‘legal counsel’. Legal is still integral, of course, but business comes first. The pages of the GC Powerlist – not just this year, but every year since 2013 – bear testament to the fact that commercial awareness is now the number one requirement.
In fact, such are the particular demands placed upon GCs that we are arguably in a position where in-house is becoming a discrete subset of the legal profession. That is a whole other debate, but one I believe will increasingly be aired.
In the meantime, there are some fairly significant issues for businesses on the horizon. But with issues for businesses come opportunities for lawyers.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is going to be very onerous, with legal having a pivotal role to play to make sure the core systems and processes match up to the massively-increased regulatory demands. Of course, the advent of GDPR is no surprise and the best of the best will have already been playing the game for a long time.
And then, of course, Brexit presents probably the most significant legalistic business issue in a generation.
With article 50 likely to be triggered before this publication hits desks, the challenges for many companies – and the lawyers advising the boards of those companies – will become inescapable. And there is only one complete financial year left for all businesses to respond.
Of course, the best GCs are already fully in tune with the current and potential issues in their supply chain, their product and service catalogue, and their customer list, as well as in relation to their staff. And they are already hand in glove with the board, advising on how to ringfence, mitigate and hedge against exit risks.
Throughout the four years of its existence, the GC Powerlist has tracked the trajectory of in-house lawyers. In that relatively short period, many have made the desired leap from ‘c-suite outsider’ to being integral members of the top team. For those who have not yet bridged the gap, if ever there was an era for demonstrating your value as a business person first, then that era is now. The same goes for private practice: demonstrating genuine business acumen, understanding and long-term vision will be ever more essential.
So, how do we see the role of the in-house lawyer developing?
Well, undoubtedly, technology will become far more significant. In a world where all businesses’ focus on efficiency is more acute, the pressure on lawyers – whether in-house or private practice – to look for smarter solutions, often delivered through tech, will only grow.
There is a risk here for law firms. Increasingly, commoditised work, once the preserve of law firms, is being done far more efficiently through technology such as AI. That is a threat to traditional practices. But it is also an opportunity for forward-thinking advisers to take stock, reassess their relationships with their in-house clients and focus on delivering high-end business value.
Does technology spell the end of lawyers as some commentators have argued? No, not at all. Will it precipitate the evolution of a different kind of lawyer? Absolutely.
And for many – not least those included in the GC Powerlist – that evolution is already well advanced.
We are proud to have sponsored the GC Powerlist since its inception. It is the benchmark of quality and a reminder to private practice firms like ours that the expectation of our clients is only heading one way.
Congratulations to all those who have made the list.
A warm congratulations to all of the nominees at the Legal Business Awards and especially to those of you who have made the GC Powerlist. We’re delighted to sponsor such a prestigious awards ceremony as well as celebrate top UK GCs.
The increased recognition and attention the in-house community has received over the past few years has been a joy to witness and is much deserved. Axiom has long believed that the future of law lies with those who lead teams and use legal services every day. Axiom exists to enable in-house teams to become as efficient and effective as possible, and to empower lawyers to meaningfully develop their careers by working with top in-house clients – including a large number of those in the Powerlist. Whether through the secondment of top-quality legal talent, better mass contract management to respond to regulatory change or undertake corporate transactions, or any of the ways in which we strive to support in-house counsel, we’ve always searched for the best, most innovative ways to deploy legal services.
Finally, we’d like to thank Legal Business for nominating us for Legal Innovator of the Year. We’re honoured to be listed alongside fellow legal innovators. Axiom set out to create a new category of alternative legal services through the unique ways in which we partner with in-house counsel, and we’re thrilled that the in-house community embraced the change and enabled the growth of that category into the many variations that exist today. Axiom is a category creator and the in-house community enabled this category.
For that, we are thankful – and we’re excited to see where we can continue to innovate together to bring meaningful progression to the legal industry.
Long may it continue.
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1. Have a plan and be proactive
It is important to have a career plan as the only person responsible for managing your career is you. If you cannot grow and develop within your own organisation (and often you can), think about whether you need to make a move. Talk to other in-house lawyers and if you are junior, find a mentor. A good recruiter will also advise you on career planning and what clients are seeking. Be strategic and keep growing.
2. Keep developing your skills
The longer we are in a role, the easier it is to stop growing personally and professionally. Volunteer to get involved in new initiatives and projects within your organisation. Do some volunteering or mentoring. Broaden your geographical coverage and experience. Choose wisely so that these new skills complement and enhance your existing skills.
3. Build your profile – internally and externally
As an in-house lawyer, it is key that you build your profile both inside your organisation and within the wider market. If you are asked to speak or participate in a round table, if it is the right forum, make sure you accept. If there is an opportunity to get involved in an industry association or body, take it. Lastly, make sure you have an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn, listing your most recent achievements.
4. Make sure your CV reflects
All your achievementsMake sure your CV is up to date and includes all new initiatives and projects in which you have been involved. Also include your promotion history. Clients want to see growth and an upward trajectory. Finally, make sure you are comfortable discussing your achievements and your role.
On the evening of September 18th, 2023, The Legal 500 gathered with great enthusiasm at the charming JW Marriott Grosvenor House in the heart of London to launch the GC Powerlist: United Kingdom 2023. This special event was made possible thanks to our incredible partners, Pinsent Masons and Laurence Simons. Esteemed legal experts from across the country came together to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
The evening began with a warm welcome from Sara Maggi, the deputy editor for The Legal 500 GC Powerlist Series, who set the tone for the evening by sharing some of the key research findings. Following her, Andrew Masraf, the managing partner at Pinsent Masons, addressed the audience. He emphasised the significance of this gathering in recognising excellence within the legal community and highlighted some of the challenges currently faced by general counsel in the United Kingdom, underscoring the importance of collaboration in overcoming these challenges.
After this exciting start, our esteemed guests moved to the ballroom for a thrilling time at the Legal Business Awards.
This gathering was undeniably a great success. Congratulations to all those who were recognised and featured in this prestigious celebration of legal excellence!