For the Long Run: from GC to CLO

For the Long Run: from GC to CLO

The GC role continues its rise to CLO. This past summer, we blogged that the legal adviser was becoming a strategic adviser. The next hot C-level role is back in the news thanks to a recent interview in Big Law Business with Western Digital Corporation’s CLO, Michael Ray.

Promoted to his new role last year, Ray says that while he still delivers quality legal advice, his perspective has certainly changed as he’s stepped back for a more strategic view. That distance is key. And by ensuring that “the urgent doesn’t overwhelm the important,” he and his department are able to maintain that perspective and offer longer-term guidance as part of the executive team.

Speaking of legal departments, his is composed of “exceptionally effective, solutions-oriented, business-savvy lawyers” who help move the company from A to B, take advantage of future opportunities and avoid or mitigate risk along the way. By the way, as many departments strategize and advise on business issues, they are increasingly running their own departments like a business, too.

97% of respondents expect the GC to be part of the executive management team by the year 2020.

In the interview, Ray also shared what he finds most valuable in outside counsel: genuine subject matter expertise, a penchant for over-communication, an understanding how their law department works and the ability to adjust accordingly.

One can expect that Ray will be joined by other GCs-turned-CLOs in the near future. Of the 30 top companies surveyed by Big Law Business in 2015, five of the 30 lawyers were CLOs. And in the 2016 NYSE Governance Services/BarkerGilmore Survey report cited in our June blog, 97 percent of respondents expect the GC to be part of the executive management team by the year 2020, an increase of 16 percentage points from 10 years ago.

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