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Publications | April 2, 2015
2 minute read

Family Offices for Ultra-Wealthy Could Benefit from Chief Legal Officer

Family offices that manage the assets of ultra-wealthy families without the services of an appropriately experienced chief legal officer are likely missing opportunities and taking unnecessary risks.

There are about 4,000 family offices in the United States – most have a chief executive officer (CEO) and a chief financial officer (CFO), but only around five percent have a chief legal officer (CLO), according to industry estimates.

A good CLO understands many legal issues that, without their involvement, would not be acted upon until it is too late. They can provide a much more proactive approach to the numerous legal matters that impact family offices. A CLO can establish appropriate governance and legal structures, implement legal strategies and better handle many important tasks like negotiating better business transactions and arrangements.

 A CLO could save ultra-wealthy families millions or even billions of dollars by taking proactive measures to utilize better tax strategies and by reducing exposure to liability and litigation. This frequently involves implementing customized arrangements that help families more effectively, efficiently and timely transfer wealth to one or more generations, while preserving defined family values and long-term legacy objectives and visions.

Because of the many different and oftentimes unique legal matters that each individual family office faces, the best CLOs have a diverse legal background while maintaining key areas of expertise and a solid network of other specialists to get involved, when needed.

The concept of a Chief Legal Officer was the subject of my presentation to the Family Office Exchange’s Senior Management Council – a group that manages the financial affairs of several large single family offices – at its March 2015 meeting in Miami. The presentation covered the importance and value of Family Office strategic planning and the role of CLOs in that process.

The Family Office Exchange (FOX) is the world’s largest membership-based network for ultra-wealthy families and their family offices and a leading authority on matters related to legacy wealth management. Warner is a FOX Thought Leader.

For more information on these issues, contact James Steffel at 616.752.2621 or jsteffel@wnj.com, or any other member of the Family Office Group.