I would venture to guess that very few, if any, General Counsel, look at the recent headlines surrounding cybersecurity, law firm hackings, and data privacy challenges, to name just a few, and think to themselves, “Wow, what a great opportunity these problems present for our legal department.”
However, two recent reports from The Conference Board (TCB), “The Conference Board Global Economic Outlook 2015” and “CEO Challenge® 2015,” present a compelling vision that articulates how the legal department can create a competitive advantage for their organization because of increasing ethical, security, and regulatory challenges and in spite of a slowing economy.
The research identified five primary challenges for General Counsel in today’s difficult environment:
- Preparing for big, unlikely but plausible events through risk assessments and contingency planning.
- Responding proactively to a more aggressive and complex global regulatory environment.
- Protecting intellectual property and data, and tackling the challenges of cybersecurity.
- Emphasizing trust-building behavior, ethical accountability and transparency, which can create competitive advantage in a down market.
- Anticipating a greater demand for new public-private partnerships, especially in industry sectors such as utilities, transportation, infrastructure development and IT security.
In an interview with Corporate Counsel magazine, Ataman Ozyildirim, TCB’s Director of Business Cycles and Growth noted that especially “in a down market, trust-building behavior, ethical accountability and transparency into the company’s core can create a competitive advantage.” To add support to that claim, every year, Forbes publishes a list of the 100 “Most Trustworthy Companies in America” and indicates that in general, these companies have stronger stock performance due to higher levels of transparency.
So, what can the General Counsel if he or she wants to take a lead in emphasizing this trust-building behavior? Recently, Mitratech has published research related to 1) the intersection of legal and compliance functions in the face of an increasingly complex regulatory and risk environment, 2) best practices for handling data privacy challenges, and 3) specific actions that the legal department can take to move up the value chain and create a true competitive advantage for the enterprise. Together, these can begin to form the legal blueprint for turning lemons into lemonade – leveraging a slowing economy and increasing risk to create material value for the business.