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From Crypto to ROI: Top Trends and Challenges for General Counsel Right Now

by Lydia Stowe, FiscalNote

Legal and compliance executives weigh in on the challenges, opportunities, and pressing issues facing their role.

Trends and challenges for general counsel

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Professionals in legal and compliance roles face a unique set of challenges in crisis management, compliance reporting, litigation, risk exposure, and public policy advocacy. Missing out on an emerging legal or regulatory risk or opportunity can have devastating effects on an organization.

General counsel and compliance professionals must ensure that the organization operates within the law at all times and facilitate business strategy development. We talked to a few pros in the area who described some of the top trends and challenges the general counsel role is facing, best practices, and how to stay on top of it all.

I’ve noticed a lot more overlap with general counsel and the IT department with the data privacy work we have to do.

Britton Nohe-Braun, General counsel
One Earth Future Foundation

Top Trends & Issues to Monitor in General Counsel Roles Over the Next Six Months

With so many ever-changing issues, here are a few that general counsels are keeping an eye on this year.

Evolving Privacy Regulations

An onslaught of jurisdictions is increasing oversight in data privacy, providing a new challenge general counsel must stay on top of. As regulations change rapidly, it’s important that organizations remain compliant in their jurisdictions and are continuously monitoring requirements.

“I’ve noticed a lot more overlap with general counsel and the IT department with the data privacy work we have to do,” says Britton Nohe-Braun, general counsel at One Earth Future Foundation and a member of the FiscalNote Executive Insitute advisory board. As states pass different data privacy laws, her organization has to redo its websites, communications, and how it maintains contact with people to remain compliant. This has led to increased partnership and collaboration between departments internally as the One Earth Future Foundation addresses these changing requirements.

“When Europe’s [General Data Protection Regulation] came out, it revolutionized the way we have to do everything” related to data privacy, Nohe-Braun says. “Navigating that, we’re all forced to become IT experts.”

Compliance professionals can use regulation tracking software to make sure they don’t miss any policy changes. Many also rely on relationships with trade associations, seminars with people who are steeped in these issues, and legal publications to follow changing privacy regulations closely.

Cryptocurrency & NFTs

Many companies are getting involved with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and Web 3.0, leaving general counsel scrambling to keep up. Professionals in legal and compliance are focusing on learning about these trending topics if it’s an area of interest for their organization.

While organizations are growing interested in gaming, minting an NFT, or trying to participate in Web 3.0, “a lot of GCs have no idea what that is,” says Darren Traub, general counsel at Triller. “A lot of my GC counterparts have never seen that because they tend to come from the mergers world or they’re litigators.” Staying informed on these global trending topics is essential for general counsel to be most useful to their organization and support its business strategy.

Synergy With Human Resources

General counsels are acting more in a human resources (HR) capacity in the aftermath of COVID-19, says Kai Falkenberg, general counsel at G/O Media. “Because of all the protocols necessary in dealing with a post-COVID workplace, it requires a tag-team effort between general counsel and heads of HR,” she says. “We’re in touch multiple times a day, while pre-COVID, there was more of a separation between those roles.”

One reason for this is the concerns with how companies are handling policies around returning to the office. According to FiscalNote’s State of Government Affairs 2022 Industry Report, 46 percent of legal and compliance professionals work remotely, while another 46 percent work in a hybrid environment. Managing a hybrid workforce, ensuring employees remain compliant with policies and procedures, and dealing with employees moving to new jurisdictions while working remotely are all issues that overlap HR and legal.

While HR and legal typically work together on hiring, firing, and onboarding new employees, they are even more closely linked now. “I’m finding myself working with HR to rewrite some of our employment policies and remote work policies,” Nohe-Braun says, especially since her organization is taking a different approach in each country where they have an office.

There has also been an increase in turnover given the “great resignation” many companies have seen. “There are a lot of challenges associated with making sure there is institutional knowledge maintained when people leave and new people come,” Falkenberg says. Onboarding, training, and familiarizing personnel with new compliance protocols require more monitoring for general counsel than in previous years because of the frequency of turnover.

Biggest Challenges for General Counsel for the Rest of the Year

Demonstrating ROI

It can be a challenge to demonstrate the ROI of legal and compliance roles, especially when many wins come from preventing something from happening that could have had negative consequences for the organization. Actively tracking legislative and regulatory developments and recording your actions around them in real-time can help you quickly show the success of your role in that area.

Another way to demonstrate ROI is calculating what you’ve taken on in-house that would normally go to outside counsel, Traub says. This helps show where you’ve saved the organization on external legal fees.

Being an active participant in the business allows general counsel to spot issues and point out potential pitfalls or areas of risk. “It’s not measurable, but they recognize the value — whether you save your company countless thousands or figure out a new way to structure a deal that made it more advantageous,” Traub says.

Lack of Time

Demonstrating ROI isn’t just about dollars — it’s also about the time saved. Having an inefficient system in place, such as relying on numerous spreadsheets and a variety of sources to find potential risks, can be highly time-consuming. Not having enough time is the biggest challenge for those in legal roles, a FiscalNote survey found, with 62 percent of responses.

Without the correct tools, finding the right information can mean looking at a variety of policy sites and trying to find where there is a possible risk, or manually pulling from several sources and putting them into spreadsheets. This can take unnecessary hours, plus not having a central repository of information makes it difficult to collaborate internally and get everyone on the same page.

GCs are expected to somehow know everything — securities, mergers, intellectual property, litigation, employment, tax issues, crypto.

Darren Traub, General counsel

Wearing Many Hats

Often, policy is not the primary focus, but something the legal team is still expected to do to protect its organization against potential risk.

“GCs are expected to somehow know everything — securities, merges, intellectual property, litigation, employment, tax issues, crypto,” Traub says. As a general counsel, it’s hard to stay on top of all these issues and understand the landscape of what’s important to your business. There can also be a lack of alignment between other departments and legal, as legal teams are inundated with information and requests from all directions.

To help address this challenge and drive alignment across the organization, Traub insists on being on all the business calls within his company. “This allows me to stay current on what the business is doing and where it’s headed,” he says. Truly understanding the business side of your organization helps flag emerging issues so when a legal issue arises, you have a baseline knowledge because of your internal involvement.

Traub also reads trade publications, blogs, and scours LinkedIn to see what other attorneys are posting about, and keeps an eye on competitors. “It’s not just legal knowledge, it’s constantly learning the business and where it’s going and what competitors are doing,” he says.

Curated, specific policy analyses and summaries can provide legal teams with tailored actionable information. This avoids the general, broad information that can be challenging to disseminate. Legal teams can minimize risk, save time, and reduce manual research by leveraging custom policy analysis solutions with a dedicated policy expert working as an extension of the team to support their goals and priorities, providing centralized and up-to-date information on the issues that matter.

The Easiest, Most Effective Way to Mitigate Policy Risk

Some legal professionals feel they’re taking a shot in the dark to find relevant information. The ability to discern relevant policy, economic, and geopolitical trends that may negatively impact your organization takes more than luck, which is why it causes anxiety for those in legal roles. The fear of missing something related to legislation or regulations causes the most anxiety for 62 percent of these professionals, FiscalNote’s survey found.

FiscalNote provides the easiest, most cost-effective way to mitigate the policy risk that can harm your organization’s bottom line. You don’t need a firehose of extraneous information or an expensive, time-consuming solution — that’s why legal and compliance executives trust FiscalNote as their secret weapon to receive timely intel and actionable insights.

Our expert analysis solutions can help you anticipate the impact of political, economic, societal, and security risks on your organization, and navigate the complex issues critical to your success. Using these tools allows you to be on top of your job and help general counsels stand out as progressive and efficient.

This personalized source of intelligence allows legal and compliance teams to find actionable insights, mitigate regulatory risk to their organizations, and easily share relevant insights with other teams that need to stay in the loop. With FiscalNote, understand changes in policy and regulations so you can respond to legal and compliance issues before they happen.

Ready to see for yourself?

Learn how FiscalNote can help you stay one step ahead of tracking, responding to, and influencing the regulations that impact your organization most.

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