Recently, Mark Poag, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Datacert, Inc. addressed a session of lawyers on the subject of how legal technology can supplement a GC’s knowledge and give him a strategic advantage. The advent of real-time storage and exchange of “big data” has created the need for technology that can accurately store information while still keeping it easily accessible to the lawyer who needs it: “There’s a lot of information and data out there. To be a strategic business partner, the challenge is to bring it all together,” says Poag.
The process of ‘bringing it all together’, for Poag, consists of three parts: “The first step is having access to that information, having the systems in place where you can pull information. The second is consolidating all that information into one place. The third is having business intelligence tools available to analyze it.” Utilizing the flood of information that is inherent in the digital age is an important hurdle for modern litigators to overcome.
Ever aware that the next great technological advancement could be just around the corner, Poag realized that even while traversing the hurdles already in place, one must also be prepared for new ones to pop up at any moment: “The question is what’s next? One area in which some of our most advanced customers have been focusing is business intelligence that not only gives them visibility into trends – their spending trends and the operations of their legal department – but also the risks facing their companies.”
Echoing earlier speakers’ pronouncements that the information available on the internet could fill the library of congress many times over, Poag went on to remind the audience of the omnipresence of digital information even as he spoke: “More digital information is created today than the capacity to store it. Of course, as I’ve just seen in the audience, lots of people using iPads, so the use of personal devices for corporate work [is a huge difference].”
Along with new technologies inevitably comes the need for new regulations. “One statistic I saw in 2011 alone, there were 14,215 regulatory changes worldwide. The fact that many of these regulations are contradictory, especially when looked at globally, further exacerbates the problem,” said Poag. Indeed, another prospect of the digital age of which to be mindful is the confusion and entanglement that necessarily accompany vast technological advancement.
But how can general counsels stem the tide of information and complication? For Poag, the answer is threefold: “[Being] efficient so that compliance efforts aren’t [soiled]… Being transparent, so that all the stakeholders have the necessary information to enable this GRC program. Being consistent, which is important for U.S. federal sentencing guidelines.” A framework for compliance with regulations as they appear is essential, and this framework involves extensive training as well as complete disclosure at every stage of the legal process. Overall, new technologies in the legal arena pose equal measures of opportunity and risk.