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Chapter Spotlight: Europe

ACC interviews Hans Albers, ACC Europe president and chief of staff and associate general counsel of Juniper Networks.

What do you like most about being in-house counsel?

I like how active and varied the in-house role is. You’re a business strategist, you’re an advisor, you oversee M&A and major deals. You need to be constantly learning and fine-tuning your repertoire. And even junior lawyers in a corporate law department get to join in the excitement. At most law firms, that would never happen, and in any event, your role would be much more fixed — and often rather boring, to be honest. In-house roles provide many opportunities and challenges.

Albers, Hans

In your experience as head of worldwide legal operations, what challenges do in-house lawyers currently face, and how are you addressing them?

Well, the biggest and most obvious problem is also the most complicated: The world economy, the legal field, and the nature of in-house law are changing every day. And there are whole national and legal jurisdictions that haven’t recognized how much the world has changed. Data privacy law is just now catching up, but still poses huge challenges for organizations, as evidenced by the clamor that came up after GDPR passed, or, outside of Europe, debates in India over the Srikrishna Committee’s recommendations.

What are some of the skills the next generation of in-house counsel needs to hone?

Tech know-how would be the first thing. Legal artificial intelligence is becoming a reality, and we can anticipate that slowly every aspect of our field is going to be changed by these new technologies. My other recommendation is a little more human, and that’s a certain international awareness. As money and data cross the globe in seconds, in-house lawyers will inevitably need to deal with regulators or other lawyers in countries whose regulations and laws are quite different. An in-house lawyer can’t afford to be provincial. Stay abreast of international regulations and legal news. Learning a new language never hurts, either. A third and yet incredibly important skill, or recommendation: Cultivate a strong legal operations team. Legal ops is the best tool you have for keeping your company’s strategic goals effective and realistic — and for ensuring that your legal department is creating real value.

Tell us more about legal operations. Are European legal departments taking on legal ops teams?

Legal operations is now well established in the United States. It’s a much newer field in Europe. But it’s growing fast: ACC’s Chief Legal Officers 2018 Survey shows that 47 percent of CLOs keep at least one legal operations professional on staff, and the numbers are growing. Worldwide, the mean number of legal ops professionals per law department is 3.21. ACC Europe is committed to promoting legal operations across the continent — and that’s  not just because my background is in legal ops! All law departments stand to benefit from a good legal operations team, and soon most of them will. To that end, ACC Europe has formed a very active regional group for legal operations professionals. At our last ACC Europe Annual Conference, we also inaugurated a Law Lab focused on turning legal departments from cost centers to value creators. ACC Europe exists to promote the interests of in-house lawyers. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we neglected legal ops.

How does your chapter promote meaningful connections and provide value to its members?

ACC Europe is 25 years old, making it one of the ACC’s oldest chapters. We have about 2,500 members across the continent. That international breadth alone provides value. Our membership extends beyond the boundaries of the European Union to countries like Switzerland and Turkey. It includes (and will include) the United Kingdom, no matter how Brexit is resolved. And some of our corporate members are major multinationals, active in and out of Europe. No other in-house association can really offer that kind of access. We’re more than just a networking association, though. We host regular meetings, like our Annual Conference (in Edinburgh this May) and various roundtables, online programs, and events throughout the year. That’s in addition to our legal resources, online and in print, and to our advocacy in European courts and with regulatory bodies.

What are ways members can get involved in your chapter?

The first and most obvious way would be to attend events — most lawyers don’t have any trouble networking in a hall full of lawyers! But our online community is also an excellent place to get involved. We host virtual roundtables as well as peer-to-peer communities, discussion boards, and a chapter-wide membership directory.

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