Best Practices for the Legal Department of the Future

The landscape of the legal department is rapidly changing

Globalization, changing digital transparency and privacy regulations, and new technologies are all acting as forces that are reshaping how legal professionals do business.

Best Practices for the Legal Department of the Future

 

File management, interoperability of the legal department with the rest of the corporation, and readiness for eDiscovery can all help to streamline the legal department. This will allow it to be more agile in handling more international business and ever-increasing digital risks. Software solutions such as DiliTrust Governance are designed specifically to help legal departments navigate complex transactions and ensure that business is done according to local and international regulations.  

Manage Social Media Policies and Risks 

Lawyers and other legal department staff have never worked in a vacuum within a company, but the legal department has traditionally run on its own model.. This has largely been because the legal department has to be run like a miniature law firm at the heart of a corporation.

With risks opening up in non-traditional areas of the business such as social media and digital privacy regulations, the legal department no longer exists in solely an advisory capacity. The EU’s General Protection Data Regulation (GDPR) is in effect now, and affects any business which stores data about EU citizens, even if the company storing that data is outside of the EU. Canadian companies must abide by the Digital Privacy Act, a recent update to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Any company storing data for residents of British Columbia must also abide by British Columbia’s Personal Information Protection Act

In addition, any business which is storing data about residents of California must ensure that it is in compliance with the California Data Privacy Protection Act, which will be in force  fromJanuary 1, 2020.

Due to the overwhelming number of national and international regulations, it is necessary for legal staff to have an active role in the creation of social media policies, digital privacy policies, and in public-facing content creation. This means legal staff may need to be partially embedded in the marketing, public relations, and technology departments, which may require hiring legal staff with experience in these specific areas. Solutions such as DiliTrust Governance can help by allowing legal staff to create, review and keep an audit trail of organization digital and social media policies.  

Social media, as a public-facing service and a technology medium, holds very specific risks according to Osler, including:

  • Influencer advertising; failure to disclose on the part of the influencer may lead to liability on the part of the corporation
  • Use of names, likenesses, and digital properties; an employee may use a photo in a social media update that they aren’t licensed to use, opening the firm up to legal action
  • Disclosure of personal information; improper data collection methods and bad data security can create risks under national, provincial and global data privacy regulations

The social media landscape changes daily. Instagram has, in just a few short years, outpaced the size of Twitter’s user base significantly. As of February 2019, 37 percent of Americans use Instagram, and 22 percent use Twitter, according to Pew. Hiring legal staff with a background in social media and/or digital communications will help to keep your department current.

Globalization: Business is No Longer Local 

Deloitte suggests that the legal department of the future will need to deal with more international business. Even smaller businesses who, in the past would only do business locally are now doing business internationally. International contracts have always been a mainstay of the corporate legal department, and are typically complex as they involve the laws and regulations of other countries, as well as multiple languages in some cases.

International subsidiaries and contracts are becoming more numerous as business becomes more common across borders. A secure and robust solution is necessary to house, archive, and create legal documents associated with international business. DiliTrust Governance was built for legal departments precisely so they could manage numerous and complex files, including Intellectual Property (IP), Real Estate, and contracts.

 Be Proactive About Electronic Discovery (eDiscovery) 

eDiscovery is no longer something a corporate legal department has to deal with in the future. If you are working in corporate legal, you have probably already participated in a few instances of eDiscovery. eDiscovery is the discovery process in legal proceedings pertaining specifically to digital information. Digital information is treated differently than paper information because of the potential for it to be altered. For this reason, document metadata is usually requested in eDiscovery, since that metadata can show when, where and by whom that document was created.

Proactively designing your document management and file storage for eDiscovery will streamline your processes and ensure that you can put your hands on key files quickly and in a format that is acceptable for court and other legal purposes.

As Osler mentions in its tips for document management, it is important to not trust the eDiscovery process to a bargain basement vendor, and the reasons for this are obvious. File security, ease of use, and reliability in legal proceedings are all at stake. DiliTrust Governance is designed to be a premium governance solution for legal departments which makes all areas of document management easier, not just eDiscovery. For the eDiscovery process, it creates an audit trail by logging each action a staff member takes with a file. Access can be strictly controlled so that only authorized management has access to specific files, which is another way of future-proofing your files for potential e-discovery as well as keeping them more secure.

Analytics, necessary for some e-discovery requests, are easily accessible through highly customizable reports. Analytics are part of the DiliTrust Governance solution. Standalone eDiscovery solutions often do not include analytics, and a separate analytics package is necessary if this is the case. Having one secure solution for document management that is specifically designed for legal departments ensures that your legal department is practicing good data security and is being proactive about eDiscovery.

While these are just a few of the best practices your firm could adopt to transform your legal department to handle the demands of the new economy and technological landscape.