Taking on the world: the challenges facing global general counsel

Taking on the world: the challenges facing global general counsel

Earth showing global in-house legal workCatherine Stromdale, Global and European Category Counsel at Unilever, discusses the challenges of managing a global legal team and the importance of coffee in a crisis.

Tell us a bit about your background and the business …

I am General Counsel for the Global and European hair category at Unilever. We have well known professional hair care and styling brands, for example TIGI, as well as retail brands such as TRESemmé, VO5 and Dove. We also have a number of brands that aren’t in the UK but that are massive globally, for example Sunsilk and Clear. The Unilever legal team is large – we’ve got around 170 lawyers worldwide, at global, regional and local level. Previously, I worked in Unilever’s Leatherhead office looking after the sales teams and supply chain for the UK and Ireland operating companies. I have been at Unilever for 5 years.

Before moving in-house, I was in private practice but was often seconded out. This meant that when I left private practice I knew exactly what sort of in-house environment I wanted to work in. You work in-house because you want to be part of the business. You want to be rolling your sleeves up, getting stuff done and helping the business out. That’s what it’s all about.

What are the key challenges you face when dealing globally?

In my interview for this role I was asked how I would bring the global legal community together. I gave a glib answer that managing a global portfolio and dealing with people around the world was limited to dealing with time-zones and being able to understand what people are saying to you. In reality, there’s much more to consider.

People around the world work very differently and have different cultural mindsets. For example, we tried to implement a new

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About the author:
Sophie Gould is the Head of Lexis®PSL In-house. Sophie worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including seven years as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group. She has also run a legal risk and compliance training business.

 

Since joining LexisNexis in 2009 Sophie has worked on developing our legal and business content for the in-house legal community.  She also runs various networking and mentoring groups for in-house lawyers and works with schools to promote social mobility within the legal profession.