What in-house lawyers should keep in mind facing risk and compliance challenges

by Sol Dolor 18 Oct 2019

There are several big challenges in-house lawyers face in the current risk and compliance environment, Louise Unger says.

“The first one is keeping abreast of the ever-increasing regulatory and regulator requirements and having the know-how to help their organisations sustainably and effectively manage these, which may require them to step outside the traditional legal advice arena,” she says. “Another is how they become part of the broader conversation on how their organisations manage risks more widely, especially given the growing importance of effective risk management. This requires them to understand risk management and how this intersects with their legal team’s role.”

Unger, who heads LOD’s law firm and compliance functions for New Zealand, says that these challenges are even greater if the legal team is functionally responsible for risk or compliance, or both.

What then should in-house legal teams remember while keeping in mind these problems? Unger says that the legal team must have a firm grasp of the risk the whole organisation faces.

“The first thing to bear in mind is that executive teams and boards need their legal teams to understand the broader organisational risks and to ensure their advice reflects these. Risk and compliance management isn’t just something that another team does and the legal team doesn’t need to know about,” she says.

She says that in-house legal teams must also remember that though risk and compliance management still has plenty of room to improve, it has matured a lot in recent years. She says that “there is a lot more to it than a risk or obligations register sitting in a bottom drawer.

“The third is that effective risk and compliance management is first and foremost about the culture of an organisation and the behaviours of its people – a policy won’t achieve anything unless it’s practical, fit for purpose, understood and embedded,” she says.

Unger will be discussing risk and compliance for in-house lawyers at the NZ Lawyer In-house Legal Summit to be held at the Cordis in Auckland on 5 November. The session is part of a packed schedule, which also includes discussions about change leadership, employment and privacy law, creating legal teams of the future, delivering on a budget, and more. Registrations are still open for the one-day event.

Unger says that events like the In-house Legal Summit provide in-house lawyers the opportunity to hear from, and talk to, other in-house lawyers who face similar challenges and issues.

“They also provide in-house lawyers with ideas and information that is specifically tailored, unique and relevant to in-house legal roles and teams,” she says.

Louise Unger