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Clifford Chance’s new report explores tomorrow’s legal function through its relationships

Leading international law firm Clifford Chance launched its new report yesterday – Defining tomorrow’s legal function through its relationshipsThe report captures the views and insights from some of the world’s leading companies to help define the expectations and aspirations for in-house counsel. The report looks at how the role of in-house legal function is evolving to one that is more outward facing, internally connected and empowered by data and technology.

A selection of the report’s highlights:

  • In-house legal teams’ relationship with data and technology is transforming all its other relationships
  • General counsels pointed to significant shifts in approaches to risk management, external advisers and the business
  • They also identified new relationships, such as the one with a company’s employees, that are a growing priority

The firm worked with RSGi who interviewed in-house counsel and their teams from ten industry leading businesses. The report aims to start an ongoing discussion about their changing roles – how they currently operate and where they hope to be in 2025.

The legal function’s changing roles are examined through the prism of its relationships. An advisory board of senior general counsels from Walt Disney Company, Unilever, Nokia and DBS Bank identified eight key relationships with employees, stakeholders, knowledge, data and technology, the business, within the legal function, and external advisors. The goal for in-house legal functions is to identify how these relationships interconnect and become intentional, rather than incidental. This dynamic is captured in a new framework: the relationship model.

Partner Naomi Griffin commented,

The relationships of legal functions with other departments and with external stakeholders have become increasingly complex as they deal with data, technology and a much broader range of social and policy issues than in the past. At Clifford Chance we want to help facilitate conversations with clients and organisations to stay at the forefront of these challenges. This is an ongoing discussion, and we encourage other participants to take part. We will continue to gather data and insights using the report’s methodology and make the findings public for the benefit of the industry.”

Key findings

Relationship with employees Legal actively engages with employees on key policy decisions and plays a critical role in making the company a better place to work.
Relationship with external stakeholders Legal will develop a more external-facing role, leading in relationships with government and advocacy groups and interacting with customers directly.
Relationship with knowledge The in-house legal team is a thought leader in its company, and within industry, government and society.
Relationship with data and technology Legal’s data infrastructure is connected across the business and it is able to deliver business insights through better use of AI. Legal’s value to the business is clearly measurable.
Relationship with the business Lawyers are embedded in business units, reporting to the CLO, and many legal services are automated or self-service.
Relationship within the legal function Legal is multi-disciplinary and provides flexible career opportunities. It leads by example on the ESG agenda, including diversity and inclusion.
Relationship with external advisers Relationships are still important but Legal has full oversight of its matters, and other metrics such as supplier diversity, with real-time reporting.
Relationship with risk management Risk management will be driven by more effective use of data and move from compliance and ethics to integrity.


About Clifford Chance’s ‘Defining tomorrow’s legal function through its relationships’ report

Clifford Chance worked with RSGI who interviewed leading in-house counsel and their teams to gather views on the changing nature of their roles, the relationships that shape their work and the challenges they face. The participants were selected to reflect different industries and geographies and were keen to share their views with their peers and the law firms with which they work.

About Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance is one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms with significant depth and range of resources across five continents. As a single, fully integrated global partnership, we pride ourselves on our approachable, collegial and team-based way of working. We always strive to exceed the expectations of our clients, which include corporates from all commercial and industrial sectors, governments, regulators, trade bodies and not-for-profit organisations. We provide them with the highest-quality advice and legal insight, which combines the firm’s global standards with in-depth local expertise.

For more information, please see and

About RSGi

RSGI Limited is a global think-tank for the legal industry that focuses on resilience, sustainability, growth and innovation for law firms, in-house legal teams and law companies around the globe. With unique insights and frameworks built up over thirty years, the four founders (Reena SenGupta, Yasmin Lambert, Tom Saunders and Mary Ormerod) enable the industry to think more clearly about the future, charting and analysing evolutions in the business and practice of law.


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