Indeed, the four main framework ideas Heineman described are not some dry, guiding principles; rather, they are the bedrock upon which all day-to-day activities and interactions in the corporate legal department should be built upon. The four framework ideas for GCs include:
Fusing together high performance, high integrity and sound risk management — Heineman said that successfully fusing these elements together at the corporate level not only mitigates risk, but also achieves positive benefits within the company, the market place, and the broader society as a whole. Think of it as a “corporation-specific optimization” that creates value for key stakeholders, from shareholders to employees and customers.
Becoming the needed Lawyer/Statesman — Today’s GCs are expected to be outstanding legal experts, wise counselors and accountable leaders for the company, Heineman said, but that has to be balanced with a strict responsibility to the higher tenants of the law. “The first question should always be, ‘Is it legal?’,” he said. “And the last should always be, ‘Is it right?’”
Resolving the Partner/Guardian tension — This is where the tightrope walk gets really tricky. GCs have to balance their duties to the company as an employee and stakeholder with their duty to guard the company from any legal missteps that could damage it. Heineman pointed out that GCs battle a lot of negative perceptions in this area, and attitudes about “company lawyers” as naysayers, being overly cautious, and hurting business are common and must be battled back. “As a GC, you owe it to the board to speak up, even though that may put you cross-ways with your CEO.
”Creating and maintaining an “Integrity Culture” — Heineman described this framework idea as one of the most important. The ability to articulate and define shared principles and practices throughout not only the corporate legal department but through the company as a whole is vital, he explained, and management walking the walk is key. “It is this culture that will influence how people will feel, think and work,” he explained. “But the leaders have to live it.”