In our latest 60 second interview, LV= general counsel Chris Griffin talks to The Lawyer about his function’s contribution to delivering transformational change, their biggest ongoing challenge and the role his panel firms play in helping his team keep up with technological change ahead of his session at this year’s In-house Financial Services conference.
What is the role of the in-house function in delivering change projects?
Transformational change projects are clearly going to be at the top of the strategic agenda at any one time, so it is vital that the in-house team is fully and effectively engaged. The in-house lawyer is essentially there to lead the legal engagement in its entirety and ensure that the project is delivered successfully with an acceptable level of legal risk. We have to use a range of legal, organisational and relationship management skills, and deep knowledge of the business, to tie the whole legal piece together. That can mean different things depending on the project, so flexibility, tenacity and a willingness to get stuck in are key, as is putting in place an effective working model with any external lawyers involved. It is essential to engage with the project leadership at the outset to ensure that the overall legal role (and particularly the different but complimentary roles of in-house and external lawyers) is fully understood and properly reflected in the project’s governance structure.
What is the biggest challenge facing your function?
Probably the biggest ongoing challenge is how to strike the right balance between acting as a proactive and forward-looking legal risk management function, while at the same time dealing with unpredictable and heavy demand for legal support. It is the latter which inevitably takes up the bulk of the team’s time. Building and maintaining close relationships with our colleagues across the business is key to understanding what is coming down the line, and enables us to manage priority conflicts before they become an issue (and bring external support on board if required to keep things moving). Keeping on top of regulatory change in our industry is also an ongoing challenge, made easier by a close and effective relationship with our compliance colleagues.
How is your in-house function keeping up with the pace of technological change?
Looking at it from a business support perspective it’s crucial that our panel firms are looking over the horizon and telling us where the emerging areas of legal risk are in this space, so we can engage with the business in the right way and play a key role in technology strategy. From an operational angle, we have recently implemented an external managed legal service to manage lower risk/value procurement contracts and that has brought great benefits to the whole contracting cycle through an online instruction process, clear MI and end to end processing including electronic signatures. We are a small function so we try and keep our own systems simple and user friendly, but always with an eye to new things which can help us get slicker and more effective.
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done instead?
I’d like to say an RAF fighter pilot, but declining eyesight in my late teens put paid to that ambition! But if I hadn’t been a lawyer I’d possibly have had a career of some sort in the aviation field, or – more realistically (as my degree was in Law with Accounting) – an accountant…