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Mauritius: Feedback from the recent GC roundtable discussion

28 May 2024
– 4 Minute Read

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Overview

  • Our practice in Mauritius hosted a roundtable discussion attended by 30 in-house lawyers across 21 organisations, on Friday, 17 May 2024.
  • The event began with a panel discussion facilitated by our Mauritius managing partner Fazil Hossenkhan and involving general counsels (GCs) with a wealth of cross-border experience.
  • This article provides a summary of the invaluable insights that the GCs shared based on their own experiences within their respective organisations.

Our practice in Mauritius had the pleasure of hosting a roundtable discussion on Friday, 17 May bringing together 30 in-house lawyers across 21 organisations. The idea was to initiate a dialogue among lawyers across various enterprises and to create a platform for sharing information and exchanging ideas on common themes.  

The event began with a panel discussion facilitated by our Mauritius managing partner Fazil Hossenkhan and involving general counsels (GCs) with a wealth of cross-border experience including:

  • Juneid Kodabux, Group Director of Legal & Corporate Affairs at African Guarantee Fund
  • Pepe Carrillo, Group General Counsel at Sand Technologies
  • Vikash Boolell, Group Head of Legal, Compliance and Risk at MUA Mauritius & East Africa

They provided invaluable insights based on their own experiences within their respective organisations. Some of the main themes to come out of the discussions are as follows.

Transitioning from the private practice

There is a paradigm shift faced by lawyers who move to in-house positions. It involves inter alia, a deep recognition of the need to win the trust of management and engage at different levels of the business. While GCs have a single client, they work for different stakeholders within their organisations. As a result, they need to be cognizant of different objectives and pursuits to become valued by the overall business. This transformation into the role requires GCs to gain awareness of business needs and juggle other non-legal considerations, such as ESG, financials, compliance and business ethics. In many ways, while the mission of the organisation is deeply rooted within management, GCs should see their roles as ‘navigators’, carefully charting the course of their businesses towards the end goal.

The art of saying no

A common challenge among our panellists and guests was the perception that the in-house lawyer’s role is essentially a negative one, that of raising obstacles to business pursuits.  Participants discussed the ways in which they approach organisational resistance through engaging and building awareness of legal risks and how, as a consequence, a culture of trust is built.

The evolving climate of compliance

The greylisting of Mauritius by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2021 was enumerated as one of the events having created lasting pressures for GCs, the upshot of which has been the development of a culture of compliance. Given their role, GCs are constantly called upon to advise their management teams on evolving rules on data protection, AML-CFT and more recently ESG, requiring them to embark on a path of constant learning and self-development to be in a position to address the increasing number of challenges posed by new regulations. 

Impact of AI

The panel also considered the impact of technology on a GC’s role in an era where it is professed that technology can potentially replace anyone, even the lawyer. Various participants expounded on their experience with AI and generative AI and the efficiencies these bring about, while critically testing the proposition of whether the legal adviser, armed not only with knowledge of regulations but also with real-life experience, could actually ever be replaced by the robot. 

Value-add

Speakers rounded up the discussion on how, in a performance-based culture, they see their GC roles as bringing value to their respective organisations. Examples were given of the legal teams coming up with concepts that have been used to reduce costs, increase efficiency or even which later developed into income-generating products (e.g Janis, an application that was initially conceptualised by the legal team at Sandtech to streamline electronic communications). The key driver of value-add, however, remains deeply rooted in the alignment of the legal team with the objectives of the enterprise. GCs should strive to always be mindful of the needs of the business and work towards helping it achieve its objectives.

Round-up and way forward

The energy generated by the event was amazing. There were persistent calls for a forum dedicated to GCs given they have long suffered from relatively less recognition from professional organisations and the legal profession at large. At Bowmans, we pride ourselves in keeping close to our clients and are already working towards the next GC Roundtable and towards creating an infrastructure to facilitate the flow of information among members of this segment of the legal profession. We will keep our clients posted on these developments.