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10 Lessons In-house Counsel Learned in 2017

2017 was a trying year for legal departments. From cyber disasters to natural disasters — and even PR disasters — there were several news stories that demanded risk management. Thankfully, that’s where lawyers excel. Below are the top 10 lessons in-house counsel have learned this past year to help them protect their company and grow in their careers.

Breaches

If the Equifax and Yahoo hacks have taught us anything, it’s that every company is susceptible to a cybersecurity attack. As such, in-house counsel’s top priority should be protecting client and customer data, by creating a breach prevention plan and knowing how to respond if hackers strike.

Artificial intelligence

Few legal trends are as polarizing or intimidating to in-house counsel as artificial intelligence (AI). Though many fear that AI will someday take their jobs, other lawyers have embraced AI to help them complete more mundane tasks. Still not convinced? ACC Columnist Aliya Ramji discusses why more law departments should get on board with new technologies.

Blockchain

Though Bitcoin’s growth might be a bubble waiting to pop, the rise of blockchain and fintech is not collapsing anytime soon. In fact, blockchain and smart contracts have become integral for general counsel. But as with any new technology, general counsel should be aware of its legal developments and court cases to avoid potential risks.

Diversity

Despite this technological progress, the law remains stagnant with its homogenous workforce. In fact, several publications consider the legal industry to be one of the “least diverse professions” in the United States. This lack of inclusion stifles innovation and company revenue. To address this issue, general counsel must strive to incorporate employees from all backgrounds to different levels of the organization, from top-level executives to new hires.

Hiring

A company must have a strong legal team in order to succeed. That begins by writing a strategic and inclusive job posting, sifting through a mountain of applications, and asking the right questions to find the best new employee. Once a candidate is selected, review local employment laws, and draft an employment agreement for when they decide to leave — if that time should come.

Work etiquette

Workplaces have several unspoken rules, and, unfortunately, not all are followed. For example, though it might seem like common sense not to hit “Reply all” in an email thread to a dozen people, it’s one of many email rules that coworkers unwittingly forget. Of course, there are also office faux pas that happen offline. Make it your 2018 resolution to have more productive meetings and less chaotic conference calls. Your coworkers will thank you.

Sexual harassment prevention

One of the biggest stories to break this year was the New York Times article that revealed that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has allegedly sexual harassed and assaulted more than 50 women Since then, more powerful men have been accused of sexual harassment or assault, and have often resigned or been fired as a result. To prevent a sexual harassment scandal from arising at your company, in-house counsel must build a welcoming work culture. Otherwise, your company could face a hefty lawsuit and a tarnished public image.

Leadership

In 2017 ACC began the “Seat at the Table” initiative to help general counsel leverage their leadership skills. That way, they can join the ranks of their company’s C-suite or board. With this influence, general counsel can ensure that their business complies with regulations and adapts to change that the public demands.

Cross-border

Thanks to globalization and the connectivity of the Internet of Things, expanding businesses internationally has never been easier. Nevertheless, challenges are often unavoidable while managing across the globe. But whether it’s mitigating risk or conducting internal investigations, general counsel can overcome those obstacles with the help of a talented and reliable team.

Disaster preparation

After the Atlantic was battered by six major hurricanes and the United States was ravaged by five large wildfires, it became abundantly clear that general counsel must have a comprehensive natural disaster plan in place. The better prepared a company is for an impending storm or disaster, the sooner it can rebound from any physical damage or revenue lost.

General Data Protection Regulation

2018 is almost here, and as many privacy experts and in-house counsel are aware, that means the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will soon be implemented. If you haven’t begun preparing your company for the new regulations, there’s still time. Here are a few things to keep in mind before May 28 arrives.

About the Author

Karmen Fox is the web content editor of ACC Docket.


The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.