General Counsel are feeling the pressure of budget cuts and increased need for their services, especially in areas of the company that they typically were not involved in historically. Stress is mounting as they navigate their new areas of focus within companies.
Legal is no longer there simply to mitigate risk, they are being asked to have a greater voice in company operations and to contribute to the bottom line.
They are seeing increasing security and compliance issues, as security threats increase and worsen. They are expected to get in front of these issues, rather than deal with the aftermath of a problem.
Let’s break things down a little:
World events, such as the Russia-Ukraine War impact global business. Economic sanctions on Russia created various economic and trade restrictions. GCs are required to understand the sanctions and ensure corporate compliance.
In this inflationary environment, General Counsel must manage costs that are rising quicker than billing rates are.
Privacy and data security includes issues like hacking, malware and ransomware. Problems results resulting from employee error (often related to phishing) and the risk of breaches are a close second.
Litigation includes labour and employment issues – which are on the rise. Staff retention is a factor since the pandemic saw a significant shift in employee’s mindsets. Employees are less willing to accept aspects of a job that they don’t like and are more likely to move on. There were also issues related to work at home policies, enforcing guidelines, constructive dismissal issues and vaccination policies being created and enforced.
GCs are required to learn new technology and manage all the components that come with that – things like licensing, set up and integration cost, seats being uses, onboarding and offboarding and more. Each of those issues can impact cost, security and privacy of data. On the flip side, there are still a large number of corporate legal departments that don’t have the budget to purchase the technology they really need.
Risk, crisis management and business continuity are big issues.
Government, regulatory compliance, and investigations are requiring more attention from General Counsel. Regulatory issues reach globally, creating more stress, and the need for increased knowledge about international policies.
Intellectual Property, including enforcing IP rights, which can be difficult. Trademark and copyright infringement are another area of focus.
Corporations are increasingly focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues. General Counsel are being asked to support and advise executive and board members, as needed.
Corporate legal departments are involved in decision making and are being asked to make strategic recommendations. To accomplish everything that is currently required plus the added responsibilities, they are going to require a lot of knowledge, experience and specialization.
As they navigate their new responsibilities, their work becomes cross-departmental. For example, they may work with IT, Human Resources and Sales/Marketing when dealing with crisis management.
It’s a constant balance to stay on top of their current work, while also making sure their priorities and actions are aligned with corporate goals and expected outcomes.
Digging a little deeper into the various areas they are working in, the following items are emerging as areas of concern:
- Appropriate staffing to handle potential crisis
- Product Liability
- White collar investigations
- Lack of necessary technology
- Patch/upgrade management
- System errors
- Patent trolls
- Economic factors
With a new seat at the table, responsibilities have increased for corporate lawyers, in addition to the new strategic input, GCs are being looked to as a communication leader, communicating with interdepartmental issues, such as privacy, data security and to demonstrate strong leadership skills while effectively managing resources.
General Counsel are expected to pivot on the fly, access information and have the legal expertise needed to create solutions to whatever the latest issue is that is blowing up.
ALSPs Offer Solutions to the Issues Plaguing GCs
ALSPs offer subject matter expertise, access to technology and the extra bandwidth needed to tackle expanding workloads, without the commitment of an employee or on-going retainer.