I attended the International Bar Association Corporate Counsel Conference in Paris this week, and I was impressed with the depth of experience represented here. Even in the current world economy, there are about 100 participants from 26 countries.
There was a general sense here that after a period of largely unregulated capitalism, we are headed into a period of increased government regulation – across the board, not just in financial services.
Beyond that, corporate counsel recognize that complying with government regulations is not enough – it is the baseline for ethical and effective operations.
Benjamin Heineman of Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession, former general counsel of GE, gave the keynote speech, discussing the need for an affirmative culture in which corporations act positively to do the right thing, not just act out of fear of doing the wrong thing.
Related to this, there was a great deal of discussion of the conflict of the competing roles of GC as a business partner and the corporate guardian. Some feel that it is impossible for GC or CLO to serve those dual roles. I disagree. I think it is the important and while it requires the right person, it can be quite valuable. For me personally, it is what makes the role most fulfilling.
Other discussions have touched on increased regulation, increased focus on compliance and social responsibility, and the elevation of role of CLO.