There’s a lot of research and literature out there on risk management and business risk management but documents on legal risk management are relatively few. Sometimes a degree of vagueness exists between what in-house lawyers see as legal risk management and what part of risk management the stakeholders of a business believe an in-house lawyer should be handling. And sometimes, a surfeit of principles, strategies, and philosophies gained from law school that do not match in-house lawyer realities can affect decisions and situations. This article is a quick primer on what most in-house lawyers see as ‘legal risk management’ and how they broadly tackle their responsibilities.
While ‘contributions’ make an in-house counsel dearer to the hearts of a business management, the primary and overwhelming responsibility of a corporate counsel is still that of a ‘fireman.’ So, legal risk management remains the functional core of a general corporate counsel.
Normally, there are a few things experienced general corporate counsels do upon joining a new company:
Begin and complete a legal audit: All key activities of a business, the methods and consequences of everyday business processes and activities of stakeholders and their objectives need thorough assessment. The corporate counsel needs to work with the management team to prioritize and streamline business processes and documentation and analyze the legal requirements that need to be maintained or put in place
Reach out and find help: Corporate counsels are expected to shoulder their own responsibilities, but they cannot function without being able to educate. Therefore communication with other key operatives is essential. If legal risks are not strongly communicated, they cannot be managed. And the counsel cannot do it all by himself or herself. Legal risk awareness training sessions are a must as are ‘legal education’ from stakeholders. Too often, top operatives are acutely aware of legal risks and responsibilities related to the business, and ignoring their advice is a recipe to doom. The first task is to learn about those legal risks which have already been identified before you walked in.
Compliance Documentation: Without any doubt, compliance documentation plays the most significant role in the responsibilities of a general corporate counsel. This is also one of the areas where the opinion of an in-house counsel would be given the highest importance and where an in-house counsel can make positive and visible impact. So, getting hands on all existing compliance documents and working through them is one of the first jobs of an in-house counsel
Check the Operations: Everyday operations of a business require highest degree of legal risk management, because the greatest amount of unseen or unanticipated risks occurs in this area. Brand protection, pending litigation, notices, product liability, HR practice, industry regulations, most regular functions in legal risk management is related with business operations. To understand processes one has to establish relationships with experts and try to gel in as part of the tem. Mostly, talking to a lawyer is seen as a formal affair by employees and unless they ‘open up’ you would never learn of the risks.
While previous corporate attitudes towards legal risk management saw the in-house lawyer as a fireman deputed for ‘putting out fires,’ this view has changed over the last decade. In addition to the ‘fireman’ role which is taken for granted, the in-house lawyer or corporate counsel is expected to make changes within the firm increasing its ability to control risk.
It is in this role that a corporate counsel makes real management contributions as systemic changes reducing risks allow a company to employ a greater amount of its resources towards realizing business objectives. The corporate counsel is not only helps the business save money, but also contributes in a fashion so that the consequences of such contribution help the business to earn more money. This is the ideal role of today’s general corporate counsel.
General Counsel will gather on November 18 and 19 at a conference entitled 'Enterprise Risk Management for the General Counsel.' The conference, hosted by Corporate Counsel, will take place at the Harvard Club in New York, NY. ....
Now you might think what would the relation be between automated calendaring software and risk management, and why should an article on a law related website preach about the use of software? That's what we are going to show. A look at the ABA's ''Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims'' will show that calendar ....
Kevin Johnson, and Zane Swanson, "Quantifying Legal Risk: a Method for Managing Legal Risk," Management Accounting Quarterly 9, no. 1 (2007)