1. Post-Weinstein, Look at Company Culture: As the initial shock of #MeToo turns into a widespread demand for change, in-house teams should be at the forefront of making a difference. Experts said legal departments should analyze sexual harassment trainings for their effectiveness, and that if a harassment claim does arise, victims should feel their their allegations are being fully investigated and that they won’t be penalized for speaking out.
2. Expect to Merge and Acquire Under Trump’s Tax Plan: If money currently held overseas is brought back to the U.S. to take advantage of a lower corporate tax rate, this may lead to domestic expansion, according to experts. For American companies already looking to expand, the bill could boost incentives to do so domestically rather than globally -- whether that’s opening an new office or acquiring a competitor in another state.
3. Boost Efforts to Attract and Retain Top Talent: Jamy Sullivan, executive director of Robert Half Legal, said her firm’s 2018 Legal Salary Guide found that a lot of in-house attorneys are worried they’ll lose staff in the coming year. But there are solutions. Legal staff are drawn by perks such as telecommuting and flexible schedules -- signs work life balance is increasingly important-- and by challenging work with opportunities for growth.
4. Use Tech Tools to Cut Costs and Spot Trouble Early: One trend from 2017 is carrying over to the new year -- legal departments are expected to do more with less. In-house counsel can boost efficiency and cut costs by ditching the old-fashioned ways of working to try the latest tech, experts told Corporate Counsel. Artificial intelligence and predictive technologies can also allow lawyers to spot legal troubles before they arrive, saving their companies time and money.
5. But Know When to Turn Off the Tech: New tools boost efficiency, experts said, but they could actually hurt departments long-term if constant emails are causing distractions throughout the day. During meetings, focus on what’s being said versus scrolling through messages, and know when it’s better to speak in person, says Susan Hackett, CEO of Legal Executive Leadership, a law practice management consultancy. She’s even seen some GCs block off certain times of the day to read and respond to emails.
2017 was a year of litigation battles, regulatory updates, rapid technological growth and enough scandals to make any general counsel nervous. In the new year, legal departments will have to adapt to all the change that continues to come their way. Corporate Counsel spoke to a group of experts to get five recommendations for in-house counsel looking to prepare for all that 2018 is sure to bring: