Sixty percent of general counsel are concerned that their risk landscape is expanding or becoming more difficult to navigate in areas spanning compliance, regulatory enforcement, data privacy, information security, emerging data sources and ongoing impacts of the pandemic.

This is among the findings of a survey of 30 general counsel presented in a report released today. Today’s report is the first of three installments that will cover the key areas that GC expect will dominate their time and resources in the year ahead: risk, culture and technology.

The remaining two installments will be release early in 2022.

The report, The General Counsel Report 2022: Leading with Endurance Through Risk, Culture and Technology Challenges, was conducted by FTI Consulting’s Technology Segment, in partnership with legal and compliance technology company Relativity.

Now in its third year, the report consisted of both a detailed survey and one-on-one interviews conducted by analyst Ari Kaplan. The interviews with the 30 GC were conducted during July and August.

Today’s report focuses on the widening risk landscape GCs face. Among its key findings:

  • Data protection is a clear and rising threat for 46% of GC, while more than a third are concerned about increased regulation and antitrust enforcement. “Everywhere we turn regulators are emboldened,” one GC told Kaplan. “It is that increased regulatory scrutiny combined with a hyper-vigilance around reputational risk that everyone seems to have.”
  • While GC in 2020 felt relatively well prepared (4.02 on a scale of 1 to 5) for data privacy obligations and regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, that confidence slipped notably (to 3.27) for 2022.
  • Although the use of collaboration platforms and cloud file sharing was not a focus in previous years’ interviews, this year more than a third of GC indicated increasing risk stemming from the accelerating growth of emerging data sources across costs, efficiencies, data privacy, information governance, compliance monitoring, security and e-discovery processes.
  • In parallel with the rising concern over the effects of emerging data sources, legal teams feel less prepared to handle them, with the average preparedness rating for this area dropping from 3.77 in 2020 to 2.9 this year.
  • Another new area of risk about which GC expressed concern this year is environmental, social and governance requirements and their impending impact on business, reputation and regulatory compliance.
  • GC indicated low degrees of preparedness for the impacts of advanced technologies such as AI and blockchain, results which were consistent with prior years of the survey, hovering around an average rating of 2 on the 1 to 5 scale.

While this first installment paints a dismal picture of a hazardous spectrum of risks GCs must navigate in the year ahead, the report’s overall conclusion is that the events of the past two years have taught GC a valuable skill, endurance, that will help them continue to lead in the years ahead.

“The demand that emerged in 2020 and 2021 for GC to shift from their core responsibilities to strategic leaders across health and safety, technology adoption, employee development, diversity and other key initiatives served as a crash course in endurance training,” the report concludes.

This is important, the report says, because “endurance is now the name of the game in leadership.”

“The findings revealed that the trials of the past two years were critical in empowering legal teams with the endurance they’ll need to face a myriad of emerging expectations and challenges that will soon dominate their time and resources,” the report says.

This first installment of the report is available for download here.

A webcast discussing the findings will be presented Dec. 8, with panelists Wendy King, senior managing director at FTI; David Horrigan, discovery counsel and legal education director at Relativity; Ari Kaplan; and Monique Ho, general counsel at Course Hero. Free registration is available here