When I was a kid there was a Saturday morning cartoon show called Sealab 2020. I remember thinking that was a long, long way off and wondering how old I would be when 2020 rolled around – – and whether by then there would really be a giant lab on the bottom of the sea with 250 oceanauts fighting sea monsters and battling pollution. But, here we are; it’s 2020! I am officially old(ish) and, sadly, sea monsters go un-battled under the ocean (unless you count Wicked Tuna), but pollution on (and in) the high seas runs rampant. Triple bummer. What does this have to do with “Ten Things” you ask? Nothing other than a little nostalgia and the “2020” reference as this is my first post of the New Year. As usual, we’ll start the year with my list of essential issues for in-house lawyers to pay attention to over the coming months. When I was general counsel, I started every year thinking about the “big picture” and what risks (good or bad) might be coming down the pike that I needed to be aware of as an in-house lawyer. It’s not an easy task as there is so much “out there” that can have an impact on your company and legal department. Still, it’s better to try to anticipate some than to ignore all. So, once again, I have sat down, read a lot, and thought hard about different issues that will likely have some substantial impact – positive or negative – on in-house lawyers and for which a little bit of preparation or pro-active attention can make you a hero vs. someone caught flat-footed. With the usual caveat that I have no crystal ball showing me what’s important, here my “Ten Things” 2020 edition of essential issues for in-house counsel:
There are an amazing number of issues, trends, and headaches to keep track of as in-house counsel. So much, that it can be difficult to know what to focus on. When I was General Counsel I made time each year to step back and try to take a look at the big picture, i.e., given everything going on in the world, what should I and my department be spending time on right now? Certainly, I wanted to make sure things that were important to the goals of business where high on our list. But I also wanted to “benchmark” my team and make sure we were aware of what other legal departments were doing. I would gather information from many different sources and then come up with my own list of current essential “issues/best practices” that I thought we needed to focus on. Generally, my list contained items dealing with risk reduction, technology needs, management practices, key analytics, and ways to enhance the value of the department to the business.
Though I have not been GC for a little while, I keep my eyes and ears open to what’s going on in the world and how might it affect in-house lawyers. I thought I would highlight some of the important things I see out there right now — things that should be on every in-house lawyer’s “watch list.” This edition of “Ten Things” discusses the essential items I would be focused on right now if I were running a legal department in 2017: