The Role of the General Counsel Has Evolved. Here’s How to Survive It.
14 April 2017
The multitude of responsibilities placed on today’s GCs – ranging from contract management to risk mitigation to business decision-making – mean that GCs need to communicate faster, better and safer.
With these responsibilities come not only the need for technology, but also for strong content management, information security and governance by the Legal department.
Keeping pace with today’s information overload
Legal departments today handle massive amounts of sensitive company information on projects such as contract negotiation, litigation matter flow, internal investigations, employment matters, board reporting and intellectual property protection, among others. For the members of the Legal department to be effective and efficient, they need ready access to company documents and information, much of which is sensitive or confidential.
At the same time, the projects that Legal departments handle today involve more and more people. While the Legal department needs to be able to share information to get work done, if sensitive information is not handled and shared in a secure manner, the company can be put at risk.
Historically, many Legal departments stored critical (and often sensitive) information on shared hard drives or network drives, and files were shared by email. However, information handled in this way is not only at risk of being exposed to external third parties, but it may be accessible to internal teams like the IT department, which can also pose a risk of inadvertent information sharing. (Just think of the Panama Papers as an example.)
Some Legal departments respond to this challenge by applying passwords to sensitive files; but, in many cases, in order to enable work to get done efficiently, those passwords are shared among various members of the team, rendering them unsafe or insecure. Alternatively, passwords may be kept confidential – known only to a single person – but, if the password holder were to leave the company without first sharing an important password with a successor, the information in that password-protected file might be rendered permanently inaccessible, creating a control and audit nightmare.
Legal teams can increase efficiency, improve document security and speed up work processes by creating secure, shared workspaces where all team members can securely access and collaborate on the files they need.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions hold the answer
GCs and CIOs today are looking for secure solutions that enable document exchange and collaboration within a framework that provides information control and governance suitable to protecting sensitive and often confidential corporate information. SaaS-based extended enterprise collaboration solutions are the strongest alternative for improved access, efficiency, security and value. By implementing these types of solutions, GCs can ensure that their teams can work safely – beyond the company firewall and across the globe – with colleagues in the Legal department and in other departments, as well as outside counsel, third parties and the board of directors.
Secure cloud-based repositories, such as an exchange for encrypted documents, can also help Legal departments as they prepare, review and conduct due diligence during contract negotiations and ongoing contract renewals. Legal departments can deploy SaaS solutions to manage global distribution of highly sensitive or confidential documents to external parties – aiding workflows with respect to timing, scope, and edits – while enabling compliance through global access controls and detailed audit trails.
The steps to secure collaboration
Today’s full-featured enterprise-grade SaaS solutions enable effective operationalized compliance programs for GCs and their Legal teams, enabling them to:
- Use a secure, compliant and auditable document-sharing and collaboration platform to enable secure collaboration beyond the firewall
- Institute flexible but secure compliance and information governance strategies
- Implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy
- Reduce commitment of in-house IT staff and related resources
- Lessen the cost and training requirements compared with Legal extranets
- Access information any time, from anywhere
- Ensure that file access is limited to those who truly need access and, using information rights management, revoke access to files when team members or needs change
Industry leaders use rights and permissions management, advanced encryption and dynamic access controls to provide maximum protection for their important company information.
And, routine audits make enterprise SaaS solutions an effective option for corporate Legal teams that need to implement secure collaboration solutions, but have limited resources.
To ensure success in the evolution from targeted risk advisors to trusted business counselors, GCs must be able to collaborate with teams in a way that provides access to data, knowledge and experience — with full information security, control and governance in place.
Learn more about digitally transforming the processes that your Legal department uses to increase efficiency, security and regulatory compliance.
Jolie has served as deputy general counsel and assistant secretary at Intralinks, responsible for corporate governance, securities and M&A matters, among other things. Outside of work, she has been a volunteer writing coach with Citizen Schools for 15 years and she also serves as the chair of the Citizen Schools Massachusetts Council of Champions.