Crawford GC Plays Multiple Roles
Allen Nelson also serves as chief administrative officer and works closely with CEO, senior management and board
In addition to leading your team you are responsible for other corporate functions. How does a GC approach leading, say, human resources or corporate communications?
The most important aspects of leading functions beyond the legal department are: a) having excellent leaders in each department, and b) knowing your own strengths and limitations. In my case, we have excellent people leading each group, so I am able to focus on more strategic aspects of those functions. As for strengths, certain areas are more familiar to me (e.g., HR, because I'm a "recovering" employment lawyer). As for the areas with which I am less familiar, it just helps to be a quick study.
What is the biggest legal challenge facing your department?
Because of the nature of our business virtually every single matter we handle has the possibility of turning into litigation. Our internal clients do a great job in handling our external clients' business; however, some claims morph into litigation. We handle those matters where they might arise.
Our biggest challenge is that we manage a global legal function, involving literally thousands of corporate clients in more than 70 countries. The team does a great job navigating the legal requirements facing our business, which vary from business-to-business and country-to-country.
What are the differences in handling major claims in the U.S., versus around the world?
The U.S. market is far more litigious than any other market in the world. Thus, the risk profile for handling major claims in the U.S. is higher than in other regions. Having said that, we do an excellent job of mitigating that risk through robust risk management, quality audits and peer reviews.
Sometimes mistakes are the best lessons. Can you think of one in your legal career that had a major impact on you as a lawyer and leader?
While I wouldn't categorize this as a mistake, I've learned a lot over the past years about leading different types of people. Some people want to be given directions, other people like to act autonomously. Some people like to talk through issues, others like to keep their own counsel. A key to success as a leader is understanding how to be true to your own leadership style while recognizing that people follow in different ways and respond to different types of leadership.
Nelson, from page 7