2015 Year in Review: Top Five Stories for In-house Counsel
One of our priorities is tracking the big issues affecting in-house counsel, and since 2015 seems to be the year of the “Top __ List,” we thought it would be fun to jump on that bandwagon too. It’s helpful to understand your legal department’s goals, challenges and priorities in the context of the greater legal profession and the business world as a whole. And isn’t it also kind of fun at this stage of the year to look back at the various twists and turns we all lived through or at least thought we might have to get through?
In our survey of business publications, most of the major business stories of 2015 had a strong legal component – The VW emissions scandal, the uptick in M&A, climate change, rising interest rates, driverless cars and the sharing economy (a la Uber), for example, all were integrally tied to the day-to-day jobs of in-house lawyers. In the case of the sharing economy, part of your job might have involved figuring out a way to understand this new business model from a legal perspective and protect your company from potential risks.
For this post, we took the information we gathered speaking with in-house lawyers at the ACC Annual Meeting, used the analytics from our blog and looked at the publications read most widely by in-house lawyers, including the ACC Docket, Corporate Counsel and the mainstream business media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes to name a few.
It’s a busy time of year, but we hope you will sneak in a few moments to contemplate the year that was with us (while enjoying a well-deserved glass of champagne). We will all find out soon what 2016 has in store for us.
1. The Repeal of EU Safe Harbor Agreement – This was the biggest question that we received at the ACC Annual Meeting when we asked for topic suggestions for our blog. More generally, in-house counsel are concerned about data privacy/transfers and data breaches. There have been some extremely helpful articles written on this, and there have been developments in just the past week. See below to get the scoop.
EU Data Law Shows Way Forward for Next Safe Harbor Agreement
Data in Disarray: The Aftermath of the EU Safe Harbor Decision
2. In 2015, M&A felt like the 800-pound gorilla of the legal function. As of early December, 2015 became the biggest year ever for M&A. Odds are if you work for a large company you did at least one M&A deal this year or you contemplated doing one. Many caution that there may be regulatory developments on the way in the United States that will slow the pace of deals in 2016. Some articles below report on the reasons for the M&A frenzy and what might happen in 2016.
2015 Becomes the Biggest M&A Year Ever
Dover Corp. SVP-General Counsel Ivonne Cabrera’s Views On Working With Law Firms, Finding the Right Outside Counsel
3. The VW Emissions Scandal – The lessons for legal departments here: That big class action could be right around the corner and a good compliance program is essential. A good compliance program could have prevented the entire mess, since it’s been reported that an engineer within the company said that the software involved was illegal. Also, large class actions were filed within four days of the first reports of the scandal. When your customer base is large and sophisticated, a class action can come faster than you can say Jack Robinson.
Volkswagen Emissions Cheating Scandal – Another Compliance 1.0 Train Wreck
How U.S. lawyers were so quick off the mark to sue Volkswagen
4. The Internet of Things and the Changing Laws for Data and Technology – Similar to number 1 with a slightly different spin: How companies use the data that comes out of connected “things” is unknown at this time, and we do not currently have a legal framework to deal with this and other questions.
Internet of Things: Understanding the Legal Framework
Unlocking the Potential of the Internet of Things
5. CLO as Leader and Manager – Some of the most popular posts on this blog have focused on questions about how to lead your legal department, which makes sense since legal departments have grown significantly in the past five years. In case you missed them, here are two of our posts related to managing your team:
Three Reasons to Use Self Evaluations in your Legal Department
How Work Surveys Can Help You Manage Your Team While Enhancing Their Career Development
From all of us at Sullivan & Worcester, happy holidays and a peaceful and joyful new year!