Hello everyone and welcome to 2023! Here we are well into year nine of the “Ten Things” blog. I checked recently and see that there are over 12,000 followers of the blog. Holy #$^%! I never in my wildest dreams imagined that would happen. So, thank you all for reading and sharing my posts. I truly appreciate it. And, as we start a new year, many of you know that my first post of the year is typically a list of issues I believe in-house lawyers should pay attention to over the coming 12 months. This is something I started doing when I first became a general counsel way back when and something I kept doing over the course of my in-house career. I still do it now as CEO of the Hilgers Graben law firm. In short, I spend time thinking about developments, trends, issues that may have a material impact on the legal department/business over the course of the new year. It starts with simply gathering information. As general counsel, that meant speaking with in-house lawyers and outside counsel, reading newspapers, blogs, industry reports, attending conferences, sitting in on meetings within the business, asking business leaders at the company, asking my team what they were seeing, and just generally paying attention to what was going on around me (see Ten Things In-House Lawyers Should Read Every Day). If you didn’t know already, information is gold to in-house lawyers, the currency of the realm. Stock up when you can! Once I spotted a potential issue, I looked at it from multiple angles and asked this question: How might this affect the company and the legal department? Answering this question meant I had to understand the company’s goals and strategy so I could spot and manage risks (see Ten Things – Spotting, Managing, and Reporting Risk) and I had to be a strategic thinker, looking beyond just the legal issues that might be at stake (see Ten Things – The Strategic In-House Lawyer). From there, I made a list of the most critical issues and worked them into the goals and activities of the legal department.
To assist me with this process, I created checklists to help quickly analyze the potential risk and strategic implications of the items on my list. Here is a version of one checklist, and it’s a helpful filter when you look at things coming across your desk day in and day out:
- Is this something that can create or destroy value?
- How does this fit into my company’s strategic goals?
- Could this be a game-changer and how so?
- Is this something a regulator might care about/criminal?
- Who is impacted by this: company, competitors, vendors, customers?
- What happens if I apply game theory to this?
- What is the regulatory regime around this?
- How can we create a competitive advantage from this?
- Have others had problems or success with this before/lessons already learned?
How you answer these questions tells you a lot about the issue you are analyzing and whether it matters or not. You do not need a checklist, but it’s a tool that can help you quickly sort through a lot of information quickly. You could also use an Eisenhower Matrix (2×2) to plot issues, focusing on the ones in the upper right quadrant. It’s really all about providing a consistent framework to consider whatever is in front of you. All right, enough yapping and background. Time to get on with another year of Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel. Here is my list of critical issues in-house lawyers should pay attention to and plan against for 2023: