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September 7, 2017

The evolution of the legal profession: From legal expert to business partner— A French Perspective

The evolution of the legal profession: From legal expert to business partner— A French Perspective

Business is evolving in a volatile legal context: regulations are changing and becoming tougher. The notion of “conformity” and “compliance” have never been so prevalent. During the 7th annual Journée du Management Juridique (Legal Management Day) in Paris this past June, Mr. Philippe Ginestié evoked a time when a supplier’s word and handshake were enough to constitute a contract.

But that time has passed.

Today, “financial efficiency has replaced legal honesty”: contracts are far too long; the lack of trust in suppliers is chronic; every clause and condition of the contract must be spelled out in detail. Everything is done to protect ourselves against the slightest risk. How do these changes influence the evolution of the legal profession?

Going beyond legal compliance.

The Sapin II and “Responsibility of vigilance” laws in France (think Dodd–Frank, California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015, etc) are great illustrations of this situation. The first, which came into force in 2016, aims to increase transparency, better combat corruption, and modernize business life. The second requires large companies to take measures in preventing ethical and governmental failures from their subcontractors.

Companies no longer have a choice. They can no longer simply just comply with regulations, they must take a more proactive and comprehensive approach to the law and respect their moral obligations. They are now accountable for their actions, and their actions are widely observed by stakeholders.

Legal: Not just a business partner, but company guardian.

In such a context, the legal profession is changing, along with other departments’ expectations of it. What follows is a review of the main trends and developments in the legal profession mentioned during the 7th annual Journée du Management Juridique.

A more strategic profession.

As the law becomes increasingly complex and dynamic, the legal profession has become more strategic: it flags emerging trends, helps the company to communicate and promotes transparency. Its new place in the organization highlights this trend and its integration with company strategy.

Legal counsel must seek to reduce the administrative aspects to focus more on the strategic aspects of their role. Their ambition should be to make business easier, and for this they must be included early on in the project and business decision making.

A more operational, outspoken profession.

The legal profession is changing; Thanks to the Internet, legal information is available at any time to anyone. Legal Counsel’s added value is not only a matter of knowledge of the law, but now they must also have a forward-looking and global vision of the company, and evolve into a strategic business advisory role that takes into account compliance and risk management, as well as suggest legal innovations. Legal departments in general should be encouraged to put themselves out there to provide legal advice by providing a concrete approach to solving business problems.

According to Loïc André, Legal Manager at Oberthur, a French publishing house, “The lawyer of the future must be a good communicator.” He or she will increasingly have to convey messages in a simple way and translate legal information for a non-legal target audience.

A more digital profession.

The concept of digital transformation is brought up every day in the press and media. Companies feel impacted at the heart of their development strategies. Digital technologies, the shifting nature of the role in-house, working methods, new risks for the company: the legal profession cannot escape the many changes that digital technologies have brought about. We will see new regulations appear and evoke “predictive justice” based on statistics and artificial intelligence.

A more international profession.

Globalization implies an internationalization of standards. Fluency in English and a knowledge of international law have become prerequisites for lawyers. But, as mentioned earlier, companies are now looking to go beyond compliance while respecting their moral obligations. Take, for example, child labor in factories in countries where it is allowed. Legally speaking, the company that manufactures its products is in compliance with local regulations, but morally and ethically the situation is quite different: A company may be legally right but morally wrong. The lawyer then becomes the guardian of the company’s values.

How Determine supports the evolution of the legal profession.

The evolution of the legal profession involves digitization, as we mentioned in a previous article. The automation of administrative tasks, optimization of procedures, automatic monitoring: all these tools play an important role in this transformation.

Concentrate on the strategy and stay in control.

Focusing on high-value tasks and fulfilling your role as a legal advisor while controlling and managing risk is possible with Determine’s Contract Management solution:

  • You are involved from the very start of the project and have access to all contracts and legal information.
  • Automatic monitoring of the entire contract lifecycle provides you with comprehensive visibility of the entire company.
  • You ensure that your third parties respect the agreements and foster teamwork through reporting, electronic signature, and workflow features.
  • You implement a single platform contract management strategy to centralize your data, control third-party risk, and ensure compliance.

Along with the legal profession and its role within companies, what contracts are and what they need to become is also changing. With contract management on the Determine Cloud Platform, contracts shift from simple legal documents to become truly strategic tools.

If you’d like to see first-hand how to take your legal role to the next level, schedule a personalized demonstration. Regardless of where you are in your digital transformation, we offer many invaluable contract management resources to assist you:

Webinars:

Getting Global in Your View of Contracts

Contract Management: It’s Time to Think About the User!

Research:

Better Together: Linking CLM with SIM to Improve Third-Party Risk Management

Creating Strategic Value from Contract Management

Blogs:

The Future of Legal Work

Time for legal to soar into the Cloud

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