Charlie Wunsch, General Counsel, Senior Vice President and Corporate Secretary for Sprint, discussed lawyers and complexity during a presentation at the 2014 Chief Legal Officer Leadership Forum in Chicago on Sept. 17. In the presentation, Wunsch pointed out lawyers and customers often believe general counsels make things more complex, but general counsels who understand the sources of problems can eliminate any confusion.
According to Wunsch, the ability to cope legally with various issues is slipping away. However, he noted complexity cannot overwhelm legal professionals if they understand all of a problem’s components. Wunsch pointed out complexity can drive up an organization’s costs, but general counsels can learn about myriad issues to help an organization better manage its resources: “As a general counsel, one of the things that I emphasize to my team is that they can’t know everything, but they need to learn a lot about most things if they can. In particular, they have to be able to spot issues in areas outside their expertise, and that’s the area that I’m struggling with a lot in terms of trying to get folks to be able to identify those issues.”
Understanding the risk tolerance of clients to complexity also is vital for general counsels, Wunsch said. If a general counsel educates clients, Wunch noted, he or she can minimize risk and eliminate complexity: “We have to educate our clients. We’ve got to help our clients better understand what it is exactly we’re doing as lawyers and why the world requires complex solutions sometimes. I think we do a pretty poor job on that lots of times, and that’s why our clients get frustrated.”