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With the goalposts of global business rapidly shifting, today’s corporate legal departments are not just about reviewing contracts or fire-fighting the blunders made by other departments. But how is this new role defined within an enterprise? And what new elements are being adopted to provide better legal protection for corporate activities? We interviewed several senior executives engaged in corporate legal affairs who shared their opinions about the qualities required for today’s highly qualified in-house legal specialist.

I am co-working with an eight-member team, among whom five are legal counsel in charge of different strategic business units, and in different functions. On top of that, we have two IP counsel as we have very proactive IP activities in China.

My team mainly focuses on two aspects. The first is about M&A divestiture and restructuring, which is a very prominent part of our daily job. The second is about our daily housekeeping work, which includes contract management and daily legal consulting, as well as compliance and legal training.

corporate legal

Regarding what core qualities an in-house counsel should have, I would list the following:

  1. Solid legal education and practice profiles;
  2. Strong interest in business and sharp business acumen;
  3. Sound perspective and judgment; open-minded; and
  4. Mentally and physically strong.

Victor Shen
Chief Legal Counsel of Henkel
Greater China and Korea

Xiaomi’s legal team has a very clear vision, that is, to become the best partner of our business teams. First of all, we emphasize the importance of understanding the business, we believe that every good lawyer has solid legal skills, but what really differentiates an outstanding lawyer from others is how deeply he understands the business and the industry.

One of the important issues to building a very successful high-performance legal department is to only hire people who are curiosity-driven, with a very open mind. Because the legal field and the industry are both rapidly changing, only those people can enjoy the lifelong learning experience and tackle the challenges that we are facing every day.

corporate legal Another point is to identify real leaders from the team – who really has the courage, resilience and wisdom to challenge the status quo and push the organization towards a more optimized and advanced stage. With that I think the head of the legal department also needs to build a work mechanism to facilitate sufficient communications between the specialized teams. Because it’s a very complicated job and we need a multiple-specialized team sometimes even in tackling one project. You can also consider an effective rotation programme to provide continual opportunities for the attorneys.

Sun Bin
General Counsel
Xiaomi Corporation

Our daily work now is to supervise the firm’s compliance work of all our China legal entities including our wholly owned commercial bank, our China securities joint venture, our mutual fund joint venture, our private equity fund, and our qualified domestic limited partner corporate legal(QDLP) fund in China.

In Morgan Stanley, people in the legal and compliance department are the trusted advisers to business and management. We aim to work right beside the business units. Nonetheless, the legal and compliance department, as the control function, will also make sure that the firm is doing the right thing, and our first client is ultimately Morgan Stanley, not the particular business unit or desk.

Dong Gang
Chief Compliance Officer for China
Morgan Stanley

I have worked as head of the legal department for a dozen years. My team-building experience is summarized as follows: First, make a strategy; second, build an organization; third, establish a system; and finally, implement the system.

First, in terms of making a strategy, I believe that any department has its own strategy, value and contribution. What can a legal department do for an enterprise? How do we reflect the value of legal departments? This is an important task for the head of a legal department. The strategy of a legal department should be aligned with the corporate development strategy and adjusted with the business development of the enterprise.

Second, a team needs to be established after the strategy is made. This requires consideration of the corporate management structure and the actual conditions of the industry. For Fox Financial, as an internet finance group, legal work is set according to the following three modules: (1) group legal affairs, including policy research, corporate affairs of group company, corporate compliance and information disclosure, and intellectual property rights; (2) operational legal affairs, which are set according to vehicle finance, housing finance, consumer finance and other business categories; and (3) legal affairs for platforms, including online and offline user-related registration agreements, authorization, ICP licences and other businesses on websites, and APPs.

In addition to building an in-house legal team, team building includes the integration of external and internal resources to establish a mutually complementary team.

Third, establishing a system, namely, how the mechanism works. In addition to basic businesses such as contract and litigation management, this includes the establishment of corresponding corporate legalpolicies, processes, systems, cross-department interaction mechanisms, regular exchange and communication. It is necessary to deeply participate in corporate businesses to provide assistance and advice to business departments from a legal perspective, and establish a cross-department system.

Finally, implementing the system. After being established, the system should be continuously monitored, implemented, updated and iterated. The entire system needs to be optimized, using internal and external tools such as intelligent audit systems and databases.

Li Yikun
VP & General Counsel
Fox Financial Technology (Hong Kong) Group

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