Between the volatile markets, evolving consumer habits and disruptive competitors, companies face considerable challenges to making sure they remain relevant and profitable. Then, as always, there is the driving force of technology, where new and emerging tools are transforming the development and delivery of services and products each and every day.

The good news is, company executives have a bevy of assets at their disposal to assess their business strategy and keep driving innovation and leading industry trends. Corporate legal departments have grown steadily in size and influence and GCs are increasingly serving as strategic advisors to the C-suite. Building upon their legacy responsibilities of addressing risk profiles and troubleshooting issues, GCs are now actively charting courses to anticipate customer needs, stay ahead of the competition and identify business opportunities.

Take, for instance, the retail industry, which has been subject to significant restructuring due to constantly evolving e-commerce models and short-lived fashion trends. It's no secret that many well-known brands have failed recently, but I've worked with several companies that faced significant challenges, adapted quickly and are thriving after making smart acquisitions, discovering new efficiencies along the supply chain, investing in technology, and enhancing user experiences. These actions also have a direct and positive effect on consumers' engagement with their brand.

Teamwork and flat leadership structures, where the board of directors, C-suite and legal team work in tandem, are important when deciding to take strategic risks that could help drive growth. Notably, GCs are playing a leading role in the decision making process and, taking a holistic approach, tap into the deep industry knowledge and niche expertise from other influential and reputable sources, including outside consultants and legal counsel. This type of collaboration, where perspectives are pulled from various sources, is essential to keeping companies on healthy growth trajectories.

Looking ahead to DLA Piper's Global Women's Leadership Summit, we have assembled an impressive panel of GCs who are the epitome of corporate innovation. Each panelist has strong business acumen and impressive legal skills that translate impeccably to the boardroom, from which they've been able to drive value within their organization and create a culture of innovation and ideas.

It will be a tremendous knowledge sharing opportunity and we look forward to a fruitful discussion.

Ann Lawrence is a partner at DLA Piper and global co-chair of the firm's Retail Sector. She is facilitating the panel discussion on "The General Counsel as a Partner in Corporate Innovation" at the 2016 Global Women's Leadership Summit.