There has never been a more interesting time to be an in-house lawyer. As general counsel continue their ascent to the top ranks of business leadership, lawyers in their teams are taking on new and more varied specialist, leadership and operational roles.

Here, we profile six regional general counsel and senior in-house lawyers pioneering new approaches to delivering legal services — and in the process changing the definition of what it means to be an in-house lawyer. The six categories identified by RSG Consulting in its research represent the areas in which it witnesses the most innovation from in-house lawyers in the FT’s Innovative Lawyers reports.

The legal adviser

The best legal adviser provides outstanding advice that is essential to the growth or survival of the business.

Hyun-Soo Kim, general counsel and chief compliance officer, Hyundai Motor Europe:
A leader and a manager, Mr Kim delivers value to the business through strategic legal advice.

Hyun-Soo Kim

He put a stop to the unauthorised sale of Hyundai vehicles in Europe with a series of creative legal strategies, including the first use of the European Court of Justice’s Metro-Cartier decision in the automotive industry.

Mr Kim has created a legal framework to set up an electric and hydrogen car-sharing service in Amsterdam and Paris. He believes lawyers can use the law to help solve business challenges and motivates his team to think creatively about commercial issues.

The strategic leader

The strategic leader draws on legal expertise and broader experience to provide commercial, strategic advice that enhances the organisation.

Rein Graat

Rein Graat, general counsel Asia-Pacific, ING Bank:
Mr Graat held a position as global head of sales and was the global head of financial markets strategy at ING before moving back into a legal role. He applies the business knowledge and strategy skills he gained to help his legal team think more about the big picture and long-term impacts. As a result, he says, “the legal function has become an integral part of realising ING’s digital ambitions”.

Lawyers are helping to drive the bank’s use of blockchain technologies and have created an artificial intelligence tool that has received funding so that it can be developed for use across the bank.

The purchaser

The purchaser finds new ways to manage external legal services, including new types of relationship and procurement processes and greater use of analytics.

Mohammed Ajaz

Mohammed Ajaz, group head of legal operational excellence, National Grid:
Mr Ajaz is leading more collaborative ways of working with outside law firms. He has mandated that firms work together to provide added value. Two firms manage 10 others to deliver joint intelligence reports and training, for example. Firms are also tasked with developing a “decision tree” together, which helps decide how new legal instructions from National Grid are handled from the moment they are received. The process ensures lawyers working on a project have the most suitable level of experience and that advice already paid for is not duplicated.

The thought leader

The thought leader takes on a lobbying role to influence legislation and regulation and is likely to promote ethical and social responsibility in the business, the broader industry and the legal sector.

Naosuke Fujita

Naosuke Fujita, managing director and general counsel, Goldman Sachs Japan:
Mr Fujita is using his influence within the Japanese business and legal community to change attitudes towards LGBT+ rights. He conducts seminars for law firms and large corporations about LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace and has guided some companies to introduce programmes and policies to support their employees.

Mr Fujita is also taking steps to change people’s attitudes more broadly. He teaches one of the first LGBT+ courses at a Japanese university and is beginning to collaborate with local governments to help alter perceptions towards LGBT+ people.

The operational manager

The operational manager improves the management of the internal legal function, including how tech is used, process, contract management, knowledge management and talent.

Tim Hartin

Tim Hartin, group company secretary and chief operating officer, compliance, legal and secretariat, Westpac:
Mr Hartin is changing the way the bank’s compliance, legal and secretariat team operates as Westpac undergoes a digital transformation. “The pace of change is so rapid that we’ve adopted a transformation-as-usual operational mindset,” he says.

Rather than lawyers, he hired a team of specialists with backgrounds in tech, data and management consulting to improve processes and ways of working.

He has also helped foster a culture of innovation and what he calls “a curious mind” within the team.

The risk manager

The risk manager pre-empts problems and protects the business from legal, regulatory or reputational threats using processes, tools or alliances with other areas of business.

Matthew Galvin

Matthew Galvin, senior director, legal and compliance, AB InBev:
After AB InBev’s $100bn merger with SABMiller, Mr Galvin introduced BrewRight, a technology tool to manage risk and compliance in more than 100 countries where the combined company conducts business. BrewRight draws on accounting and other enterprise systems to aggregate and analyse data about transactions and third parties.

It has changed how the business thinks about data and transparency, “but that is only part of the journey”, Mr Galvin says. “It will be a tool that will ultimately influence behaviour across all functions — not just compliance.”

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