2013 is going to be an interesting year. General Counsel priorities for the next twelve months show strong urgency about reshaping how Legal responds to activist regulatory enforcement and increased litigation. The hope is that improving processes, systems and controls get us there, but there’s doubt as to which strategies to pursue first. Commercial contracting, one of the clearest areas where Legal’s speed to a superior response could create competitive advantage, is on the docket as well.
We test GC plans for next year in two ways. This past month, we’ve been sharing the findings from our Legal Budget Diagnostic — describing how GCs are prioritizing resources with modest budget increases to fund their priorities. They’re investing in people, outside counsel fee increases and some technology upgrades, but their approach is still cautious.
The other test of GC priorities is our annual issues survey. Here we asked GCs which topics are critical to their success in the coming year. The survey revealed three themes which we will explore in 2013:
- Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Work – Our business partners in HR and IT are abuzz with ideas about exploiting collaboration to drive employee productivity and capturing value from customers and consumers via increasingly sophisticated data analytics. This means more work for Legal as we try to manage the downside risks to these business endeavors – data privacy breaches, ‘rogue’ social media postings, and more decision-making outside the remit of ‘central’ Legal policies – 90% of GCs ranked staying on top of changing legal risks as their top priority for next year. Our Legal Risk Assessment Tool helps surface some of those risks across disparate businesses and geographies.
- “Back to Basics” – For the first time in a several years, GCs are reorienting around some core themes – accelerating commercial contracting and records management. While core to the value that Legal has always delivered, technology innovation is likely driving GCs to ask what more they can do to expedite and systematize these processes in their organizations. Our upcoming workshops on these domains provide practical implementation tips.
- Re-tooling Legal – Another top 5 topic was upskilling Legal in some nascent areas – creativity, technology fluency, information and change management. While the rest of the firm may be playing ‘catch up’ in areas such as analytical thinking, problem-solving and judgment, legal departments have some distance to cover in terms of key skills, and our Lawyer Skills Diagnostic Tool will help sharpen GC focus on these skills.