Complaints Signal Opportunity!

July 9, 2013

– Maintaining a good relationship between Legal and Sales & Marketing –


The “Leaders of Japan” held on May 16, 2013, featured a presentation entitled “Effective Business Partnering and Cross Functional Work as Corporate Counsels” by Mr. Takayuki Kitajima, Representative Director of Unilever Japan Holdings K.K., on the current status of corporate legal departments and how legal departments can gain the understanding of other departments by contributing to business.


(Summary of Presentation)

  • In his presentation, Mr. Kitajima mentioned the following as complaints commonly directed at legal departments:
  • Good advice, but too focused on the legalities and lacks business sense
  • Advice overly focused on risk aversion and not practical
  • Legalese (legal term) too difficult to understand
  • Very slow to react and unable to keep up with business
  • We understand that the risks are there, but there is no indication of how likely they are to become a reality. No specific advice on actions to be taken to manage risks.


Mr. Kitajima pointed out that it is important for corporate legal departments to think of complaints as good opportunities. They must support business strategies from a legal perspective in order to bridge the gap between it and business (e.g., sales, marketing) departments. He stressed that, to this end, it is important for legal departments to become good business partners and understand where the gap between legal and business departments lies through the complaints directed at them, since this will allow them to establish a new relationship with the business (e.g., sales, marketing) departments. According to Mr. Kitajima, the following three points are the key to effective business partnering:


  • Acceptance of risks (subject to detailed assessment)
  • Quick response (responsiveness)
  • Proactive communication


Even when assessing the risks, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the business in order to accurately determine the possibility of the risk becoming a reality. Daily communication, including face-to-face conversations, as opposed to relying on e-mails, and easily comprehensible explanations, is indispensable in gaining the understanding of other departments.


While legal affairs was the subject of the presentation, Mr. Kitajima drew the audience closer to himself by starting with a self-introduction, which covered everything from his hobbies (drinking, cycling, etc.) to family and pet, before moving on to the main topic. His presentation technique provided hints not only on establishing a good relationship between the legal and other departments, but also on drawing the entire company into one’s pace.

The presentation materials can be found here (PDF).

For further information about The Leaders of Japan, please contact en world Marketing team (