Corporate Governance and IT departments have not enjoyed much overlap throughout the years, something that may perhaps have impacted a business companywide outlook on important issues such as cyber security or information governance. However, that may be changing as corporate attorneys and resident IT experts seek to address both the risk and technical challenges of moving towards the remote working environment necessitated by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Susanna McDonald, chief legal officer at the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), described the trend as an extension of a relationship that began as companies were trying to navigate both the policy and cyber security-related issues posed by privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
According to her, “The lawyers are talking about this with their board of directors. They are talking about cyber security and risk with their board of directors. … So the legal departments are getting involved and in order to be able to do that, they have to have a good relationship with the IT department.”
Lawyers were required to interpret the legal nuances of the CCPA and the steps a company may have to take towards compliance, while IT departments could provide reality checks around the technical feasibility of such initiatives while laying down the technical groundwork necessary for execution. Gulam Zade, CEO of Logicforce, pointed out that a similar arrangement has emerged to deal with the sudden onslaught of remote working needs.
From an IT perspective, for example, it can be more daunting to secure a network of devices spread from home-to-home than one that is centralized in a shared office space. Besides, those same cyber vulnerabilities—some of which have already emerged in the shape of phishing scams—also raise the legal risk associated with the threat of breaches and stolen or lost data. For companies, developing a solid remote working strategy definitely requires legal and IT departments to share notes.
Zade further stated, “I think this has really brought the two groups together as they plan long-term plans for organizations on how they are going to deal with however long this COVID virus and the work from home situation lasts.”
However, once the virus recedes and businesses potentially return to something approaching a new normal, a stronger relationship between legal and IT departments could begin bearing fruit beyond company policies or cyber security postures. McDonald along with the ACC believes that the framework companies established to assist with remote working could also yield long-term gains for legal department efficiency.
She pointed towards the implementation of technologies like remote signature solutions, which could become a more regular fixture inside legal departments after serving as a necessary bridge in times of social distancing. McDonald also noted that remote working has actually yielded higher productivity inside some organizations, so IT departments may be expected to keep video conferencing and other remote working platforms going strong even once they are no longer strictly necessary.
In the words of McDonald, “We’re all going to be looking at probably faster adoption of IT to help us get our job done quickly and more efficiently.”