What's the point of a General Counsel? GC's are many things - people managers, advisers, pacifiers, crisis controllers, Jacks of all trades - it depends on the company. However, I think that there's one key role that all GCs must fulfil - the controller of the "Freedom to Operate".
FTO comprises the legal right to operate PLUS the existential permissions to do so. Legal rights come from permits, licences, regulatory compliance and the like. Existential permissions come from less obvious sources: public acceptance of the business in the community; agreement from suppliers and customers to do business with the company; willingness of workers to work for the company.
Legal compliance alone is not enough; it's critical (obviously), but if no one will trade with the fully permitted and compliant business..... it will not trade - it can, but it can't.
The implications of this idea are manyfold, wide and deep.