An encouraging shift in chief legal officer (CLO) priorities seems to suggest an evolution in the CLO’s focus from reactive to proactive, from manager to executive leader. To be successful, a CLO may seek to master and strike the right balance between “four faces”: catalyst, strategist, guardian, and operator.
Today’s chief legal officer (CLO) is multi-dimensional. In addition to being a legal tactician, today’s CLO is also a strategic thinker and a senior executive, operating at one of the highest and most impactful levels of an organization. In a 2023 survey, 81% of CLOs in the US, and 66% of CLOs globally, reported directly to the CEO.
More than half also have the corporate secretary role, 78% were responsible for compliance, 51% were responsible for risk, and more than a third were responsible for ethics (47%) and risk (44%). Increasingly, CLOs are also taking on more non-traditional areas of responsibility, including cyber and ESG/sustainability.
Thus, as their role widens, CLOs may find themselves considering how best to focus their time and efforts to navigate the increasingly complex role across an increasingly diverse set of responsibilities. To be successful, a CLO can divide their time between “four faces”: catalyst, strategist, guardian, and operator.
In this second edition of “The four faces of the chief legal officer,” we provide an update from the first edition on surveyed CLOs’ priorities, as well as how new and experienced CLOs currently spend their time and wish to spend their time.
The four faces
The role of the CLO continues to grow in importance with increasing influence at the most senior levels of leadership. To be successful in the role, a CLO should learn to skillfully navigate the four faces of the CLO, focusing most of their time and effort in the catalyst and strategist roles.
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