Corporate legal departments have seen some significant changes over the past couple of years. The ongoing explosion of data volumes and rapid adoption of new communications technologies have made e-discovery operations more complex and expensive to manage, convincing many departments to move operations in-house. The requirements of privacy regulations, and the data inventory, discovery, and production capabilities necessary to meet them, have increasingly fallen into legal’s domain. And the need to respond quickly and effectively to data breaches have brought digital forensic toolkits out from the private sector and into the corporate world. In short, legal professionals have seen the convergence of multiple trends into the holistic discipline of Legal Governance, Risk, and Compliance.
One of the most important resources documenting these trends—and offering insights into how leading legal professionals are responding to them—has been the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Chief Legal Officers Survey. Exterro, the exclusive ACC Alliance Partner for E-Discovery, Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Compliance, is a proud sponsor for the 2022 ACC CLO Survey, which continues to be the industry’s largest and most comprehensive survey of chief legal officers. With results from 861 CLOs representing 20 industries and almost 40 countries, this year’s survey highlights three key trends observed by CLOs and general counsel, demonstrating that the move toward unified legal GRC is continuing, if not accelerating.
Trend #1: CLOs are responsible for more than just legal strategy.
Four out of five CLOs are responsible for compliance, 47% manage privacy, and 40% manage risk. In comparing 2022 to 2021, CLOs have more responsibility today in 18 out of 21 different corporate functions. This wide scope of responsibilities demands CLOs and their legal teams have the sort of holistic view of organizational data and legal GRC offered in a unified technology platform, rather than stitching the big picture together from multiple point solutions.
Trend #2: CLOs recognize legal GRC as critical for the business.
Cybersecurity, regulation, and compliance, and data privacy remain the top three issues that CLOs rank as most important for the overall business, averaging approximately eight points on a scale ranging from one to ten. All three areas scored slightly higher than last year. The high importance given to these three areas aligns with CLOs’ expectations that industry-specific regulations and data protection privacy rules will most likely pose the biggest legal challenges to the business. Sixty-six percent anticipate that industry regulations will cause the biggest legal challenges this year, and 55 percent list data protection rules as a cause for legal concern.
Trend #3: CLOs recognize technology holds the key to meeting these increased demands.
More responsibilities in business-critical priorities translates into more work, but CLOs have a response in mind. Over half of the surveyed CLOs are either planning on adopting new technology solutions in the legal department in 2022 or have just recently added new technologies to improve efficiencies and streamline processes. Departmental success depends on technology use. With privacy of critical importance, CLOs are investing in technology to successfully comply with data privacy regulations, with 56 percent of participants stating that they implemented new technology last year to assist with this business priority. But technology also helps legal departments manage and optimize their workflows across functions, as CLOs also recommended the automation and digitalization of legal department processes to improve internal client satisfaction and streamline operations.