The Law in Black and White Episode 8 Recap: The Changing Role of the General Counsel

In episode 8 of The Law in Black and White, Jon and Bryan talk to Angela Grant and LaTanya Langley about the role of the General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer in driving cost savings and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within an organization.

Angela Grant is a creative leader with legal and business expertise and a technology-driven mindset. She currently serves as the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Palomar Holdings, Inc., where she uses her experience in the insurance industry to oversee all in-house and corporate counsel duties. She is active in the InsurTech and the broader P&C insurance community in addition to acting as an advisor for Vonzella, a startup focused on developing products for underserved communities.

LaTanya Langley currently serves as Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary at BIC, one of the best-known international brands in writing instruments, lighters, and shavers. At BIC, she manages all legal matters for their largest business unit, supply chain, and leads anti-corruption compliance. She is also responsible for all legal matters in BIC’s international markets, including North America and Latin America as well as being previously responsible for legal matters in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific.

In this episode, Angela and LaTanya provide insight on the evolving role of a General Counsel. Where the office was once characterized as the “department of no,” both women speak to how their roles have morphed beyond simply telling the corporation what the law is, but into being a strategic partner, proactive risk manager, and business driver.

Some highlights from their discussion are provided below:

The GC’s Role in a Covid-19 Environment  

Both Angela and LaTanya emphasized the way their role has changed, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. As “guardians of risk,” the women confronted new challenges in a digital landscape, grappling with new data protection, privacy, and IP issues that were not as prevalent when more business was being conducted in person.

In addition to new legal matters, there is an increased importance for the GC to promote mental well-being, including checking in on colleagues and organizing programs solely focused on self-care. As LaTanya Langley puts it, in times of uncertainty, strength and leadership look different. A GC that is “empathic, caring, [and] thoughtful” is needed.

Drivers of Diversity

As GCs, both women feel a personal and professional obligation to use their role to drive diversity in the marketplace. This should go beyond defining diversity as a corporate value, but actively using their role to implement programs targeted toward driving diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Their Thoughts on the Future of ALSPs

Alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) can be attractive to GCs because they help meet both goals of (1) driving down costs and (2) taking action to promote diversity and inclusion. ALSPs that provide young attorneys with comprehensive and ongoing training were described as particularly useful, as training is considered to be outside the typical role of a GC and ALSPs can fill that gap. Overall, ALSPs are viewed as a method to drive diversity efforts, in a sustainable way with long-term benefits.

To hear more from Angela Grant and LaTanya Langley, the entire episode is available on Spotify.

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