Chief Legal Officer 5.0

23 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2020 Last revised: 7 Apr 2020

Date Written: March 15, 2020


This Essay analyzes the chief legal officer (CLO) and argues that the contemporary business environment requires an enhanced CLO role. As a matter of prediction and aspiration, it maps out key competencies contemporary CLOs should possess. Since the Great Recession of 2008, the demands placed on CLOs have increased. Today’s business environment is characterized by technological disruption, increased activism by shareholders and other stakeholders, a regulatory environment emphasizing internal controls, and private ordering instead of prescriptive regulation. At the same time, delivery methods in the legal services industry are undergoing a massive transformation, driven in part by technological innovation. If handled ineffectively, these complex demands threaten corporate value. Given the fast pace and growing complexity of the financially focused business environment, the CLO must creatively and intelligently engage internal clients and a range of third parties, which requires a diverse and deeper set of competencies. The CLO of the future should have a skill set that resembles a T-shape. Here, the vertical line represents acute legal acumen and the horizontal line represents additional competencies that allow the CLO to bridge multiple constituencies. Specifically, these additional competencies include, inter alia, (1) sophisticated procurement capabilities, (2) an enhanced financial focus, and (3) a global enterprise risk-management orientation. Performing this enhanced role, however, may be subject to challenges and limitations.

Keywords: Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Compliance, Risk Management, Professionalism, Board of Directors, Shareholder, Stakeholder, ESG, Shareholder Activism, Artificial Intelligence

JEL Classification: K22

Suggested Citation

Simmons, Omari Scott, Chief Legal Officer 5.0 (March 15, 2020). Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Omari Scott Simmons (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States
(336) 758-4493 (Phone)

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