The General Counsel 2025 And Beyond

Role of the general counsel

The legal field is undergoing significant changes due to various factors, including advances in technology, globalization of business, a rapidly changing business environment, and evolving societal and regulatory norms. The impact of these changes is sure to be felt even on the in-house legal teams, resulting in an attendant shift in the role of the general counsel. The role of the general counsel (GC) is, therefore, likely to continue evolving in response to this changing landscape and the accompanying increasing complexity of business operations. Here are some potential changes that could occur in the next five years:

Increased adoption of legal technology: The legal industry is becoming more technology-driven, and this trend is likely to continue in the next five years. Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology are likely to change the way legal services are delivered and how legal professionals' work. As a result, the GC is certain to need to adapt to new legal technologies such as AI-powered contract review tools or blockchain-based smart contracts, and ensure that the organization's legal processes keep pace with these advancements. In particular, these advanced legal technologies will need to be understood by not just the GC but the entire legal department.

AI-powered tools are already being used for tasks such as contract review, legal research, and e-discovery. In the next five years, AI is likely to become even more prevalent in the legal industry, with advancements in natural language processing, machine learning, and predictive analytics. We are already observing the advent of Generative AI tools like Chatgpt and Bard; with time they are going to get better – and the legal teams need to learn to harness these.

Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the way legal contracts are created, executed, and enforced. In the next five years, we may see more widespread adoption of blockchain-based smart contracts and other applications of blockchain in the legal industry.

Functional changes

The result of the above will be a shift in the workforce in-house, with an increase in non-legal professionals, core technologists, etc., resulting in a multidisciplinary workforce. There is also a growing recognition of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. Law firms and legal departments may implement more initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, and legal professionals may receive more training in these areas.

More emphasis on legal operations

With the increasing complexity of business, another attendant change that is already on the anvil, and, by 2025, is sure to be center stage is the increasing relevance of Legal Operations. In the changed environment confronting business, seamless integrated legal ops will be a must-have, propelling this to a key area for the GC, far more than now. As a result, in the coming years, we will see more companies adopting legalops practices, with the help of legal technology solutions that streamline processes such as contract management, document automation, and e-billing.

Greater focus on data privacy and cyber security

The growing importance of data, plus its privacy concerns, is now a focus area – by 2025, they will be of primary importance, more than almost any other risk that legal manages. With the increasing amount of data being generated and shared, there is a growing need for legal professionals to have expertise in data privacy and cybersecurity. The GC will have to be on top of both data security and privacy, especially with the ever-more stringent regulations around these.

Globalization of business

As businesses become more global, the GC may need to navigate an increasingly complex web of international laws and regulations. This could involve building relationships with lawyers in other countries or developing expertise in international law.

Greater involvement in business strategy

The GC will also need to become more involved in the overall strategy and decision-making of the organization, beyond just providing legal advice. This could involve advising on risk management, compliance, and ethical considerations, in addition to the centrally vital matter of data privacy and security. Further, the increased capabilities in the analytics field and onset of legal transformation will propel the GC to the position of a key business leader who can provide deep insights on business to other functional leaders.

Shift in skill sets required

With the increasing complexity and scope of the role, GCs will need to develop a broader range of skills to meet the changing demands of the role, which may include the following skill sets:

Technology expertise: As legal technology continues to advance GCs will need to have a good understanding of the latest legal tech tools and how they can be used to improve legal processes and outcomes.

Data analysis: With the increasing amount of data being generated, GCs may need to develop skills in data analysis and visualization to help them make more informed decisions and provide strategic advice to the organization.

Strategic thinking: GCs will need to think more strategically, beyond just providing legal advice, and play a more active role in shaping the organization's overall strategy and direction.

Business acumen: GCs will need to have a good understanding of the organization's business operations, financials, and risk management practices, to ensure that legal advice is aligned with the organization's objectives.

Communication and collaboration: GCs will need to be effective communicators and collaborators, working closely with other departments such as finance, IT, and HR, and building relationships with external stakeholders such as regulators, customers, and investors.

Change management: As the legal landscape continues to evolve, GCs may need to develop skills in change management to help the organization adapt to new legal and regulatory requirements.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion: With a growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, GCs may need to develop skills in DEI and help the organization develop policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion.


Overall, the legal field is likely to undergo significant changes in the next five years, driven by technology, societal and regulatory norms, and changing business models. Legal professionals who are able to adapt to these changes and develop new skills will be well-positioned to succeed in this evolving landscape. The GCs role is likely to become more multifaceted and strategic, requiring a broader range of skills beyond traditional legal expertise. The GC will need to be able to balance legal risk with business objectives and navigate a rapidly changing legal landscape. Finally, the focus on increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving access to justice will continue to be vital.

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