There is much speculation about the impact of the incoming U.S. administration on regulations, and how compliance might change for corporations and their in-house legal departments. While it’s impossible to know what the state, federal and global regulatory landscapes will look like a year from now, two things are certain: There will be change. And regardless of the policy and regulatory changes to come – even in a deregulated environment – compliance initiatives and investments will increase, not slow down.
The June 2016 Deloitte Future Trends for Legal Services global research study found that nearly half (49%) of all participants said their department’s legal spend was growing in the area of regulatory compliance. Global compliance is perceived as a major issue for in-house lawyers.
The impact of technology on compliance
Technology begets efficiency in a competitive business environment, and as compliance has become more complex and labor intensive, it is not surprising that it has become a major focus in legal technology. Internal and external forces will always be at work in the business of compliance, constantly driving priorities to the next level. Corporations are embracing technology to more efficiently manage daily functions and meet both internal and external expectations and requirements.
Companies have no control over external forces but must be vigilant and ready to respond. Today and in the future, it is expected that technology be deeply integrated in compliance programs. While companies do control internal compliance, these initiatives are expanding – from enforcing ethical cultures through technology, to adopting more efficient contract software, and of critical importance, staying current with data privacy and protections, and cyber-security for companies and their customers. Data security and compliance with data protection regulations are driving information governance, and ‘new-gen’ tools are on the rise to answer the need.
Technology is the disruptive common denominator for facilitating internal and external compliance. The same transformation is occurring within the government sector.
Legal talent is at a premium
Demand is high for in-house attorneys who not only understand the needs, challenges and risks of today’s corporations, but also the technologies that facilitate compliance and best practices. Companies are becoming more collaborative internally, merging the expertise and initiatives of their legal and IT teams. Compliance is a hot practice area for existing attorneys wanting to specialize, and for law students entering the field.
Investments in top-tier in-house and external counsel are growing. The Deloitte study also found that global compliance is perceived as a major issue for in-house lawyers, with over a quarter (26%) saying it is the biggest challenge within their department. Doing more with less, appropriate use of technology and the speed of business also are among the biggest challenges for in-house legal departments today.
As mentioned, even if 2017 unveils what many expect to be a tidal wave of deregulation, not much is going to change in terms of the time invested in compliance, and the growing investments in managing it. Greater awareness and planning, a new breed of tech-savvy attorneys, and choosing and tailoring the best technologies are the way of the future.
A Qualified Barrister, Jonathan Wylie was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2008, where he began his legal career in litigation. Upon moving to the United States, he joined Lucas Group to source high-level legal talent for Fortune 500 corporations and small to mid-size firms throughout the Southeast.