United States: Our In-house Counsel Survey Says . . .

Sullivan & Worcester was a sponsor of the ACC Annual Meeting in October in Boston, and we launched InhouseGo2 during the same week. We were looking for a substantive and meaningful way to connect with ACC members at our booth in the Exhibit Hall at the Annual Meeting. Everyone at the ACC loves a good prize drawing, so we decided to give away an Apple Watch. We asked ACC members to submit a blog topic for InhouseGo2 and in return, they could enter our Apple Watch drawing. It was a tremendous success for us: We gained more than 100 topic ideas and we connected with ACC members about their challenges, questions and opportunities. One unexpected takeaway was that we got an overall sense of the issues that are keeping in-house counsel up at night. We thought it might be interesting for all of you to get a summary of what your colleagues submitted. Our respondents were from a wide variety of industries and company sizes. In addition, their seniority levels ran the gamut from more junior lawyers in large departments, to solo lawyers within small companies, to mid-level lawyers, to CLOs of large departments. Here is a snapshot of our findings: 

  1. The number one (and numbers two and three!) issue/worry for the in-house lawyers that we polled: cybersecurity, cybersecurity, cybersecurity. A total of 25% of our responses related to cybersecurity, although they came in different flavors: some were related to educating employees or board members on cybersecurity and/or privacy policies, and many asked about how to deal with a data breach. Perhaps the most common cybersecurity question was about the impact of the EU's recent safe harbor decision.
  2. The second-most requested topics related to litigation, with a total of 13% of responses. These are bit harder to summarize, but we received several questions on litigation holds, as well as attorney-client privilege issues. Two examples: "Does privilege exist for purposes of dealing with regulators anymore?" and "Tips on maintaining privilege during internal investigations."
  3. Perhaps in keeping with the mission statement of this blog to cover topics associated with management, we received many professional development-related questions, as well as questions about how to manage the board or present legal challenges to the board. This question, in particular, stood out to us because it linked the popular cybersecurity topic with the evolving role of the GC within the organization and in board relations: 

"What are the obligations of the GC to the board to ensure that they are meeting their fiduciary duty of care surrounding cybersecurity issues? No one is addressing educating them. [We are] Not great on actual training program within the entire organization and the board." 

  1. The survey, however unscientific, really drove home for us the sheer variety of issues that in-house lawyers are thinking about on a daily basis. There were industry-specific questions from companies that are heavily regulated but also many big picture questions from these GCs in similar situations. We clearly see that in even the largest companies, in-house lawyers are juggling a multitude of issues and having to consider a variety of stakeholders within their companies. We also got some questions about law firm billing rates, so we'll be looking for creative ways to address that topic too. We hear you loud and clear!

If you are an in-house lawyer, and you'd like to receive the full list of topics, please click below, and fill out the form. We will email you the list, once we've heard from you. In addition, please comment here if there are other issues that you would like to see us cover on InhouseGo2. We are looking to do a similar survey at least once per year, if not more often. 

Register here to receive the full list of blog topics from the ACC Annual Meeting

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