What trends will impact your small legal department in 2018?
When we look back at 2017, it has been a year marked by changes in regulations (i.e. GDPR), legislative uncertainty (i.e. Brexit) and cyber threats (i.e. ransomware attacks). As such, the role of in-house lawyers has evolved – and in 2018 this evolution will be even more apparent.
In 2018, in addition to being legal experts, General Counsels (GCs) will continue to take on added responsibilities as senior managers and business leaders, adding insights about compliance, risk management, and even partnering with IT to understanding evolving technology needs.
In this post we’ll explore the top trends we predict will impact legal departments in 2018 and provide links to valuable resources to help you ride the tide of change:
Trend 1: Data protection and cyber-security
From the global WannaCry ransomware attack to the Panama Papers, 2017 has been a blockbuster year for cybercrime. In October of this year, the total amount of data breaches in the US had already surpassed the total in all of 2016 – highlighting that the frequency and veracity of cyber-attacks are increasing. And while many organisations continue to rely on detecting and responding to a data breach, cyber-attack prevention will be a bigger focus in 2018, especially in light of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into effect in May 2018.
Whether it is understanding the implications of GDPR, establishing new governance or working with IT to meet compliance requirements, in-house legal departments will take an active role in addressing cybersecurity and data privacy concerns. Working together with other departments, in-house lawyers will play a leading role in the development of governance policies and data strategies that protect corporate information, while simultaneously providing the business with enough freedom to use that same information to gain a competitive edge.
To meet this challenge, GCs in smaller companies need a simple, secure solution that manages their legal information. Small legal departments can use technology to work smarter and collaborate with colleagues in other business units, all while keeping information safe.
Trend 2: Navigating the effect of Brexit on regulation
Brexit will usher in a period of unprecedented change, leaving many UK businesses eager to know how laws will change and the impact on their business. While 2017 has been a year of “wait and see”, going into 2018 in-house lawyers are in a unique position to demonstrate leadership, help their business deal with upcoming changes proactively and minimise exposure to legal risk.
To deal with Brexit, in-house lawyers will need to have an accurate overview of contracts, the ability to quickly audit their corporate structure, and the right tools to track compliance information and processes to mitigate legal risk, including new data protection regulations. A structured system for storing, tracking, sharing and reporting on legal information can help meet this challenge. With your legal information is organised you can quickly generate insights to inform decisions, develop strategic action plans and involve key stakeholders in establishing new governance, ensuring your organisation is ready for whatever Brexit-related changed to come to pass in 2018.
Trend 3: Dealing with tight budgets & pressure to show value
According to the 2017 Global Counsel Leaders Circle Benchmark, in-house counsel continues to struggle with tight budgets, making it hard to add resources and invest in technology. That said, less than half of those surveyed use KPIs to demonstrate Legal’s compensation to the business. What this boils down to is that legal’s contribution is not clear to those deciding your budget. With all of the added responsibilities that will fall on your shoulders in 2018, you can’t afford to be under-resourced or unequipped with the right tools.
Using KPIs is one way to make your case, but to really overcome this challenge you will need to align your budget request to the wider business strategy. By positioning your request as a “legal only” issue, you reduce the importance it has on your ability to play a strategic role in the business. To make a stronger case for spending, link your request to specific strategic goals that are important to your CEO and CFO, like compliance, risk mitigation or business continuity, and demonstrate the cost of continuing down your current path. By estimating the costs of wasted time, lost opportunities and risk, like data loss or fines for non-compliance, you can show that the investment in software will pay for itself over time.
Trend 4: More work highlights the need for efficiency
If you think your job is more demanding and time-consuming than a year ago, you’re not alone. About 3/4 of in-house lawyers say workloads have increased compared to 2016, highlighting the growing need to create more structured systems and process for managing legal information that will save you time. If you’re starting 2018 without a tool to manage your legal information and workflows, it will be extremely difficult to have an accurate overview of all your legal matters, identify opportunities and reduce legal risks across the entire organisation.
But that’s not all. As the role of in-house lawyers continues to evolve, legal departments are becoming more reliant on collaboration with other departments across the business, which translates into an ever-increasing volume of legal information to manage. From contracts, policies, legal documents and data – how many systems do you have to store and share documents? How much time do you waste searching for key information, like contract terms or deadlines? How many times do you receive the same request from a colleague for the latest version of a document?
With better technology, you can provide standard templates, assign tasks, manage and track matters, share documents with colleagues and collect relevant data in a structured way, increasing your efficiency and collaboration across the organisation.
Ensure your legal department is ready to provide better and faster support to the business by making operational investments where needed.