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Arriving now: The CLO's 2024 agenda
Six areas where legal can drive business value
Chief legal officers (CLOs), general counsel and senior legal leaders face an increasingly challenging dual imperative — mitigating vulnerabilities while capitalizing on opportunities. Technology advances, new market entrants, geopolitical and economic volatility, regulatory uncertainty, climate extremes and workforce disruptions are converging to upend established business models and profitability. In fact, nearly 40% of CEOs think their company will no longer be economically viable a decade from now if it continues on its current path. Lean into this new paradigm. With increasing complexities and pressure to transform operating models to drive new growth and speed to market, you’re uniquely positioned to create — and protect — strategic value for your company.
With increasing focus on driving top-line growth while managing costs, delivering value to the business is imperative. Planning for new products and services, advising on complex transactions, facilitating productive relationships with business partners and providing legal insights for better decision-making requires an agile legal function. To get there, you should have a clear strategy and vision backed by a thoughtful plan for integrating the people, processes and enabling technologies to transform your department while minimizing disruption.
Start your legal transformation by defining a vision for legal service delivery that aligns with your organization’s goals. Build out an organizational design including process improvements that can create more capacity to focus on business priorities, keeping in mind the downstream impact that legal and risk management decisions and processes may have on other functions across the enterprise. Taking on a more strategic role may also require strengthening your team’s capabilities through upskilling. To speed transformation, you may also consider a strategic managed services business partner to help elevate your team to work smarter and more efficiently.
Given the unique requirements for legal work, including confidentiality and defensibility, technology adoption by legal departments historically has lagged other areas. That’s rapidly changing with enablement strategies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, process automation, data lakes and cloud services reshaping business and the legal and regulatory terrain. While it may raise questions around data security, privacy, information governance and intellectual property, tech also offers innovative ways to digitally enable and scale your department and business.
As you balance creating more capacity for value creation against potential risks, digitizing and standardizing data is a critical first step to unlock the potential of your organization’s data. From there, collaborate with your legal tech team or CIO and consider adopting a data lake or cloud-native applications that bring data into a single place. With this foundation, you can be positioned to realize benefits from other tech applications. Generative AI tools offer exciting possibilities — when managed securely by a trusted business partner and trained on curated legal data.
“Modern clouds can make it easier to deploy innovative solutions, which will help you focus on strategic matters.”
Start with a plan for improving your data and cloud capabilities, aligning with your enterprise strategy that integrates your existing niche applications. Explore solutions for enterprise legal management, data insights and vendor management, including whether third-party vendors can support your team’s transition to new systems that offer improved user experience. Unlock even more efficiencies with generative AI tools for contract risk analysis and processing, legal research, regulatory change monitoring and document review, drafting and summarization.
Facing an ever-evolving list of legal and regulatory issues, keeping a finger on the pulse of the risk and regulatory landscape — including emerging regulations, regulatory compliance, cybersecurity and data privacy — is the cornerstone to building trust, helping accelerate transformation and generating long-term value for your company.
In particular, the market demand for signs of progress on environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives also presents concrete short- and long-term risks to a company's operations and reputation relating to issues like climate change; diversity, equity and inclusion; data security; board diversity and tax transparency. The recent injection of ESG issues into political conflicts further heightens the importance of having a well-considered and thoroughly documented process for assessing the impact of these initiatives on strategy and long-term value.
Take the helm on developing a practical, purpose-led risk management playbook to help your company stay ahead of evolving regulations. To increase proactive risk identification and free up resources to focus on the most critical areas, take a hard look at where to upgrade, reconfigure or replace tech applications.
With intimate knowledge of the entire enterprise, CLOs and general counsel are wielding increasing influence beyond legal risks. You have the opportunity to contribute to a wide range of strategy discussions including potential mergers and acquisitions, as well as issues related to ESG, crisis resiliency, the regulatory terrain in new markets and board diversity matters — which may go far beyond the duties of a traditional corporate secretary. Whether you’ve been interacting with the board regularly for years or you’re in a new role that’s landing you on the agenda, these interactions can help shape the board's view of your professional credibility, as well as that of your team.
of executives trust their boards to effectively engage with shareholders, but 48% don’t think their boards fully understand shareholder priorities
As a corporate secretary, you may have a number of responsibilities when it comes to the board of directors: confirming the company’s corporate governance framework is designed, implemented and maintained, setting the board’s agenda and preparing minutes, and serving as a key consultant to both the board and the executive management team. As your role expands, consider how you can work with other functions to share an integrated perspective with the board. Education sessions can provide the context the board needs to better understand your functional area — and gain critical support for legal transformation and modernization initiatives.
Effective information governance is critical to safeguarding your intellectual property as well as managing evolving global regulations that intersect, such as those related to generative AI, privacy, cyber, ESG and content moderation. A mature governance model can help you and your executive team monitor and monetize your corporate information assets and provide robust reporting, while also advising workers on the practical how and where they can collect, create, share or defensibly dispose of records and data.
Foundationally, your team needs to efficiently meet record-retention and disposition obligations in addition to satisfying business needs. You need effective protocols and systems for managing how your organization's information is not only accessed, used and shared, but also retained and defensibly destroyed. Enterprise record and document management systems alone aren’t enough without user-friendly, secure, effective integrations into the processes by which people work. Reinforce the importance of effective information governance by establishing and integrating key protocols like effective oversight, risk-based training, auditing, accountability and updating your compliance registrar.
Additionally, the ever-present need to meet the data challenges of multi-jurisdictional litigation and investigations often requires a periodic review to have comfort in the right combination of eDiscovery practitioners, tools and digital forensics experience.
Work across your business to strengthen your information governance approach by aligning technology with process, training and oversight. Expand the program to cover the lifecycle of records, data or intellectual property — from inception to archival storage — while safeguarding against loss, data corruption and unauthorized use. A mature, evergreen information governance program can easily adapt to new ways of working, geographies and technologies to provide the appropriate guidance and risk management while enabling the business to drive growth.
“With the triple stakes of legal outcomes, data security and cost efficiencies on the line, it’s never been more urgent to find a comprehensive information governance system.”
Contract lifecycle management (CLM) is taking on renewed focus and urgency. While control and compliance remain fundamental elements of contract performance, contracts are becoming more complex due to evolving terms to manage data, security, privacy, access and more.
In today’s dynamic business environment, contracts are also becoming a critical source of management information. They offer mechanisms for greater adaptability and agility in business deals and trading relationships — and an opportunity for legal to provide tangible benefit to the business by offering the right protections, reducing friction, increasing speed to market and contributing to top-line revenue growth. Harness the value of the contract lifecycle by taking a holistic approach to transforming your contract management. Success depends not only on the implementation of new technology but also on building consensus across stakeholders, users and suppliers while maintaining progress at pace.
Begin by conducting a maturity assessment of your contracting function to identify pain points and potential solutions, including complementary technology selection and calibration. Redesign, standardize and potentially automate contracting processes, develop or refine contracting playbooks and clause libraries, and extract valuable data for improved value measurements of your contracts and agreements. Consider how recent technology advancements can bolster contract management from drafting and negotiation to execution and beyond, through the use of data-driven analytics, self-service portals and generative AI — or consider contract managed services for more routine or lower value populations.
PwC US does not provide legal advice or opinion in the United States. Access our Global site to find where our 3,700 Law Firm attorneys around the world are based. PwC US refers to United States member firms. Each member firm is a separate legal entity.