Hello everyone and hello 2022! If you are a long-time reader of the blog, you know that I like to start off January with a list of issues I believe in-house lawyers should pay attention to over the coming year. This is something I did every year as general counsel at several different companies. Basically, I kept tabs on developments, trends, issues (or whatever) that I thought would have the most impact on the legal department over the next 12 months or so. I did this by speaking with in-house lawyers and outside counsel, reading newspapers, blogs, reports, attending conferences, sitting in on meetings within the business, asking business leaders at the company, asking my team what they were seeing, and just generally paying attention to what was going on around me. Once I spotted a potential issue, I looked at it and asked one simple question: How might this affect the company and the legal department? Answering this question meant I had to understand the company’s goals and strategy so I could spot and manage risks (and hone my ability to be a more strategic partner to the business). Of course, it helps to be naturally curious about what is going on around you and be thirsty for information. Information is gold to in-house lawyers (see my post Ten Things In-House Lawyers Should Read Every Day). From there, I made a list of issues and worked them into the goals and activities of the legal department.
In my new book, Showing the Value of the Legal Department, I set out a checklist to help in-house lawyers quickly analyze potential risks (risks being potentially both negative and positive, e.g., taking risks can lead to positive results). Here is a version of that checklist, and it’s a helpful filter when you look at things coming across your desk day in and day out:
- Is this a risk that can create or destroy value?
- Could this be a game-changer and how so?
- Is this something a regulator might care about/criminal?
- Could this make customers or vendors happy or upset/litigation?
- If it becomes public or goes “badly,” will it damage our reputation?
- Is this covered by a specific law or regulations/does it comply? What’s the downside?
- What will our competitors do? How should we respond?
- Have others had problems or success with this before/lessons already learned?
- Could this hurt someone (e.g., physical, safety, environmental mishap, reputation)?
- Is this an opportunity for the company and, if so, who needs to know?
It’s not perfect, but it works. You are welcome to use it, create something similar, or laugh at it. Your call. All I know is that it helped me quickly sort through what mattered and what did not. I still use it. But enough background. Time to get on with the show and another year of Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel (pause for very mild applause…). Here is my list of critical issues in-house lawyers should pay attention to and plan against for 2022: