Monday, 8 April 2013 (18 minutes ago) by Clare Bolton
The biggest meeting of the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association to date took place in São Paulo last week, with nearly 70 general counsel from Goldman Sachs, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, HBO, Odebrecht, Raizen, Google, Proctor & Gamble, Cielo, Sony and many more.
Sergio Pompilio, Paulo Pinotti, Clare Bolton, Renata Garrido (Procter & Gamble)
The day kicked off with the deep debate on the role and voice of the general counsel, with the group discussing whether it was time for a return to the core of being a lawyer, and having less influence on the business.
“Every day, Brazil is being placed more and more on the global platform, in which we are really the focus and priority – and for me, the role of the in-house counsel with regards to risk management changes slightly,” said Sergio Pompilio, regional general counsel of Johnson & Johnson. “If you are part of a global company, within the network of global laws you must comply with, the closeness to the business has a certain limit. There are things which could be bad for the company in the short term, but good in the medium or long term. For me, this level of independence is fundamental.”
Paulo Pinotti of MasterCard agreed with him. “I have before now been very involved with the business, but I think these days am moving back towards being a lawyer. We have to ask, up to which point do our internal clients want us to influence the business?” He pointed out that companies in which lawyers have too great an influence can be too risk-averse, as that tends to be lawyers’ nature, which harms innovation and the creation of new business. “I see companies today coming back to see lawyers in the role they should be – as extremely important, but not unduly influencing the business.”
The day continued with a focus on a new tool introduced by the Brazilian Institute for Ethical Business, designed to help companies measure how ethical they are. Director Douglas Flinto discussed the fundamentals of ethics in business and the next steps companies can take to improve their approach to ethics.
LACCA’s regular consultant Pam Woldow of Edge International gave a very popular presentation on reorganising your legal department. Whether looking for efficiency, because of a company reorganisation, or because of a new general counsel, nearly half of the legal teams of companies in attendance had been through a reorganisation, and Woldow led the group through a step-by-step plan on how to take the team through the change process. “Efficiency is all about people, and you are not going to get more efficient if you cannot get the people on board,” she said.
She described studies which showed that lawyers are more sceptical and more autonomous than the general population, have a greater sense of urgency, and are less resilient and sociable. “So you have people who want to be left alone, who don’t want to hear from you, who don’t like change, and think everything they have got to do is very important and they have got to do it now – how do you get them on board with change?”
The first step is to plan the change, and to increase communication with the team about it. Luciana Gualda, general counsel of local pharmaceutical company of Aché agreed: “I start with a plan, and a speech: I know you are all sceptical, autonomous, have a strong sense of urgency and don’t want to change but – we must to, so you should help me to do that, because I am not going to do it alone.” Woldow noted that communication and motivation are critical.
Another key problem faced by in-house counsel in Brazil is immigration – the country has a labour shortage, and negotiating its byzantine labour rules can be complex. Luciano Malara, regional employment counsel for Dell and André Ribeiro of Felsberg Advogados together took the group step by step through the process.
Malara noted that while there may be a shortage of qualified people in Brazil, the level of immigration was actually quite low on a global scale. The difficulties of immigration could be a reason, he noted: “Interaction with the government agencies can be difficult, especially because the legislation is excessively protectionist,” he explained, noting that access to information is difficult, the deadlines are long, bureaucracy can be heavy, and the process is expensive. “Also, there is conflict between some of the legislation, which means a lack of legal security, and which for now at least has little prospect of improvement.”
Some of the tips the pair gave were to understand these conflicts, plan the contract appropriately, and research which visa would be the best type to apply for. More practically, defining how the work would be split between HR and legal is critical, as is supporting the new hire not only legally, but also personally and with his or her family.
In the last presentation of the day, the head of legal of Google Brazil Fabiana Siviero discussed the best way to train your internal clients. She noted that in a global corporation like Google, the difficulties of training everyone and the complexity of the materials on which people need to be trained can seem like insurmountable challenges.
Google also implements a “train the trainer” culture – training the manager for him or her to transfer the information to their team. “You have to focus on the manager – I think everyone needs to be trained, but it is the responsibility of the manager to ensure everyone is up to date. They have to be the first point of contact for their team.” She noted that the question of accountability is a tricky one to overcome within this context.
The legal team should also identify the critical training, and repeat it to make sure it is being heard. For the most important, identical training twice a year was the best way reinforce the knowledge acquisition.
In-depth articles on all of these topics will be produced over coming weeks and published on the website of the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association. The association has become the leading vehicle through which general counsel in the region interact and share knowledge and best practice. Our team of dedicated journalists analyse the news and trends which affect in-house counsel in Latin America and produce a weekly briefing with all of the updates members need.
Originally, the content provided by LACCA has only been available to its members, who are leading in-house counsel in the region. However, as more and more private practitioners have shown an interest in learning about what matters most to their clients, we have made the site available to all. LACCA has now become the essential resource for firms looking to understand the needs of corporate counsel in Latin America. Find out more here.
Fonte: Latin Lawyer on-line de 8.4.2013.