General Counsel and Legal Consulting – A Collaborative Approach

By Vikas Goyal, Vice President & Head – Legal, Ferrero

The domain in which General Counsel operate is changing. In-house legal professionals are playing more business centricroles and looking for ways to add greater strategic and commercial value to their organizations. At the same time, questionsof economic, social and environmental sustainability of business have risen toprominence in boardrooms around the world and are becoming amore explicit influence on Corporate Strategy, Governance and Decision-Making.

General Counsel recognizes the need to create and protect ‘Moral Capital’ for their organisations, as increasingly well-informed stakeholders expect businesses to not only do what is legal’ but what is ‘right’.

In this world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), a scenario witnessed in India and Worldwide, the responsibilities of the General Counsel is not only to focus on the technicalities of law or VUCA, but to create an congenial environment tosynergize operations and growth oriented efforts and development with stability & certainty.  This drives and emphasis the role of the Legal Consulting, which is evolving, gaining momentum, synchronizing with General Counsel and collaborating with business strategies.

In the Indian context, we have more than 34,000 laws (Central and State), overburden Judiciary with 31 million pending cases, preconceived notions, Bureaucratic style of Govt. Authorities with zero risk taking, delayed response. Absence of Canon of Certainty - frequent changes, varied interpretation.

This has led to the evolution and the need of the Legal Consulting, which can offer a wide range of legal services across a broad spectrum of practice areas that includes Mergers and Acquisitions,formation of legal entities in India & overseas, corporate transactional matters, Financial Services, Energy and Infrastructure, Disputes, Competition, Capital Markets, Employment, Real Estate and Tax. The role of the Legal Consulting can be appreciated as to acquire expertise in every spear, which may not be feasible for General Counsel/(s). The further vast areas include legal issues concerning inbound and outbound investments, strategic alliances and collaborations. Laws and regulations in relation to  

  1. Structuring of investment vehicles
  2. Subsidiaries & Joint Ventures
  3. Technology transfers & licensing
  4. Technical assistance & services arrangements
  5. Governmental & regulatory compliance and approvals.

The list is long with periodical updates, judicial pronouncements and verdicts and each adding to the complexities. Needless to say that the role of Legal Consulting has also gained substantial momentum on day-to-day legal issues concerning commercial & business affairs on legal structuring of commercial arrangement, corporate legal affairs, commercial contracts and documentation. The expertise of Legal Consulting is also required in the entire gamut of Employment matters including Contracts, ESOP’s (Employee Stock Options), Benefits, Disciplinary action and termination.

The field of Litigation opens yet another huge basket, where the role and significance of the Legal Consulting plays a vital role. The litigation can range from the district level litigation at diverse and wide spread forums and Court followed by Appeals, Revisions and Petitions to the Multi-jurisdiction litigation to litigation pertaining to high value commercial risk and organization and brand reputation. General Counsel and Legal Consultants then play a unified and combined role in making and then implementing the strategies on these series of litigations. 

Legal Consulting over the period had oriented themselves to business friendly and result oriented advice and opinions. The advises and role of the Legal Consulting today is delivered by well-informed, accessible, partner-led teams, which strive to provide the highest quality of services by listening, understanding their needs, responding promptly and living up to the commitments that we make the Corporate world.

Legal Consulting also gives the wide opportunities to work with lawyers (external) who understand the multi-cultural aspects of international business and the multi-jurisdictional aspects of legal practice in this age of globalization.This nurtures the culture whereby the General Counsels continuously update their knowledge and legal skills, which keeps them abreast of the latest developments in laws, culture and business standards of various countries, which helps them in providing with creative legal solutions.

We are of the belief that in the context of the present economicworld, the legal profession / Legal Consulting plays a valuable and constructive role. The changes in the economic climate in the world have brought about a sea change in the traditional role of the lawyer. The development of the transnational law practitioner has occurred in response to clients conducting business on an international level. The need for specialist services has emerged in addressing issues of international corporate matters.


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