Survey: In-House Lawyers Fret Over Ethics, Data Leaks, and Patent Lawsuits

A new report from the Association of Corporate Counsel shows that issues of ethics and compliance remain supreme for corporate lawyers, but increasingly, they've become obsessed with the same issues that have dominated the business world over the past few years.

A new report from the Association of Corporate Counsel shows ethics and regulatory compliance remain paramount for in-house corporate lawyers. But these attorneys have become increasingly concerned about the same issues that have dominated the business world in recent years.

Your chief legal officer has been reading the headlines and doesn’t like what they say.

In the latest edition of the Chief Legal Officers Survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel, nearly 1,300 CLOs in 46 countries said they are increasingly concerned about some of the biggest issues facing the business world as a whole, including the legal risks that come with data leaks and the financial and courtroom headaches that intellectual property disputes can bring to a business.

But paramount for many CLOs is the need to reinforce an ethical culture within the organization. The report revealed that 96 percent of respondents cited ethics and regulatory compliance issues as important, especially in larger legal departments. The Wall Street Journal notes that compliance is a growing challenge for corporations because of a bevy of regulations that came out of new laws such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. (One example: new requirements under Dodd Frank that require manufacturers to report whether their products contain minerals from conflict zones.)

Not far behind on the list of top worries are data breaches like those at Target, Sony Pictures, and (most recently) Anthem BlueCross BlueShield. “One-quarter (27 percent) of CLOs reported experiencing data breaches within their organizations over the past two years,” the report states [PDF]. “The implications are expensive both in direct costs … and indirect costs such as customer turnover.”

And patent issues are likely to become a higher priority in 2015 because so-called patent trolls have shifted their litigation tactics. “Patent trolls used to just try to pick off the smaller companies, the smaller inventors,” ACC President and CEO Veta T. Richardson told The Wall Street Journal. “But now they’re going for the bigger targets, trying to extract quick settlements.”

The survey comes at a time when patent reform legislation, which died in the Senate last year, is being revisited in Congress. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a revised Innovation Act to the House last week.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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