Booz Allen's Nancy Laben: Leading at the Intersection of Business, Law, and Innovation
“I believe my greatest contribution to Booz Allen since arriving in 2013 has been elevating the impact of a high-performing legal team. Our team is now broadly strategic and forward thinking—it has become an integral partner for our business leaders. The team is “skating to where the puck will be,” as Wayne Gretzky once said.” - Nancy Laben, Booz Allen Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
Corporate legal departments have come a long way from simply being a “department of progress prevention,” noted the Financial Times in its recently released FT General Counsel Report. Today, as digital transformation alters how global companies conduct business and drive innovation, legal teams are helping their companies keep pace with technological change and applying their legal expertise to challenges in new ways.
No one embodies that transformation better than Booz Allen® Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Nancy Laben, who was named one of this year’s FT Global27 – an annual list recognizing the most innovative and influential general counsels from around the world.
As in-house legal teams have broadened their function and impact by merging law, business, and technology, leaders like Laben are shaping their departments as business-led, digitally enabled strategic advisors. In an FT webinar with fellow Global27 GCs from Verizon, Cisco and Dominion Energy, Laben shared insights on her role in navigating the road ahead.
A history of innovative legal leadership
As digital transformation accelerates—particularly amid COVID-19 disruptions and the virtual world of work—Laben is helping Booz Allen and its clients keep up with her business-oriented, tech-savvy legal team.
“When you are in a conversation, you’re not just providing your legal advice, you’re providing your business advice,” Laben has said. “I think that differentiates the Booz Allen legal team from many other organizations, and it’s how we add the most value to the company.”
Laben’s role encompasses a variety of responsibilities for both Booz Allen and its clients. She oversees the firm’s Ethics & Compliance, Legal, and Corporate Affairs functions, and she and her team have done everything from working with industry and government to streamline the vetting process for security clearances to collaborating with Booz Allen’s data scientists, business leaders, audit committee, and executive team to navigate the ethical use and management of data—including innovations in data analytics and AI.
“It’s not easy. It takes continuous care, thought, and a legal and ethical overlay to get it right,” Laben said.
Both “stable rudder” and strategic guide in challenging times
Laben says she see her role evolving even more in the future.
“The successful general counsel should help manage and strategize about how to deal with business challenges, whether they're black swans, health crises like COVID-19, government investigations, or threats to a firm’s reputation,” she said.
For instance, when the COVID-19 crisis hit, Laben assigned her day-to-day responsibilities for the crisis management team to her senior deputy. This left her free to help Booz Allen’s global leadership team look at the broader picture. “How were we keeping our people safe from a policy perspective? How were we going to continue to serve our clients? How were we going to serve the community?”
“My goal is to be one of the leaders in our organization who enables the organization to continue to focus on the business of providing support to our clients as we navigate through complex legal and regulatory issues,” Laben said.
“There is always a need for someone to be a stable rudder in times of uncertainty and crisis so that the core business can continue to operate and perform with minimal interruption,” she said. “Having this broader role strengthens my ability as general counsel to be a true strategic partner to our client-facing business.”