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Britain may be trying to back out of the European Union, but European in-house counsel cant separate themselves from challenges like running law departments efficiently and complying with regulations on anticompetition and data privacy.
According to a new survey conducted by the Legal Exchange Network (LEN) of 150 general counsel and chief compliance officers in Europe, their top on-the-job priorities are legal department management, regulatory compliance and training, and risk management.
Continuous assessment, monitoring, and updating of compliance programs and policies is critical, and it is not surprising that the UK Bribery Act, data protection, and competition regulation top the list of compliance leaders priorities, state the findings from LEN, which surveyed GCs and CCOs from the U.K., Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Belgium.
Improving legal department management, legal spend management, and outside counsel management were identified as priority areas by 112 GCs and CCOs. Over 50 percent are planning to utilize technologies to increase department efficiencies and spend transparency with contract management, e-billing, and e-learning listed as the most sought-after solutions to achieve this, according to the results.
As far as compliance goes, 100 said that antitrust/[anti]competition was their top priority, 93 selected data privacy and data protection, 89 said that reviewing and enhancing their compliance programs were key, followed by 49 people [who] are looking closely at antibribery, the survey finds.
Legal and compliance risk management also ranked high, with 99 respondents identifying it as their top focus area. This relates to the fact that a lot of organizations are aiming for growth, especially in emerging marketsin fact 44 respondents said emerging markets are an area of interest or investment for them, according to the findings.
The LEN report says those emerging markets where legal and compliance need support remain the same, with China, India, and Russia leading the way, closely followed by Africa and Brazil.
More than 100 respondents identified litigation cost and management as key priorities, while 10 percent of GCs and CCOs said utilizing alternative dispute resolution tools is important to them. This is an area on the rise: more and more general counsel are trying to settle disputes outside court as litigation costs put yet another dent into already stretched legal budgets, the report states.
Next on the priorities list: recruitment, retention, and trainingwith a particular emphasis on being able to support business growth. We are seeing that in many organizations, in addition to developing specific legal/compliance competencies, business competency training for in-house teams is provided as well, say the authors.
Finally, as business restructuring and M&A activity both tick upward, survey respondents are reacting accordingly. In-house counsel are assessing M&A opportunities, identifying best forms of legal presence in foreign markets, and mapping the regulatory landscape to ensure they help their company take full advantage of the markets, according to the report.