In today’s world, business is changing. It’s becoming more global, operations are making the world seem smaller with the increasing role of technology, we’re having to conquer language and cultural barriers and there are ever-increasing ethical challenges.  

Lauralee Martin, global chief operating and financial officer for Jones Lang LaSalle, believes the implications of this changing world are enormous. She stresses that with these complications and changing regulations, companies have to make sure their integrity, ethics, culture and hiring policies are stable from the beginning -- they have to set the right tone at the top. With that in mind, she said that the general counsel is now involved in everything companies do.

The other panelists echoed this point. The role of the GC has been expanded and there is an increasingly integrated business environment. There is now much more collaboration at many companies between the GC, internal audit team, human resources and the chief financial officer, among others.

Deborah DeHaas, vice chairman, central region managing partner and chief inclusion officer of Deloitte LLP, has seen the relationship with the GC and C-suite evolve tremendously. She views the GC as a critical business partners.

Social Media Challenges

The rise of social media in business is also causing the corporate world to rapidly evolve. Martin said that the combination of social media and workforce demographic shifts can bust business models. The old adage used to be location, location, location -- and now it is “flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.”

The panelists were quick to emphasize the rewards of social media in today’s business world, rather than just the risks. Geralyn Presti, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Forest City Enterprises, Inc., said that social media has enabled the company to deal with communication challenges. It has increased collaboration, training and education.

Moderator Dale Anne Reiss, managing director of Artemis Advisors LLC, noted that social media has changed how businesses do business. Social media evens the playing field in many ways. With good social content delivered by smart employees, small businesses can look and act like bigger businesses.

Gail Lione, former general counsel at Harley-Davidson, Inc., did note that there needs to be increased focus on social media policies. What companies include in those policies need to be balanced with business operations.