Crossing the Pond • Key Conclusions from Legal Leadership in EMEA

The legal landscape in EMEA - Europe, the Middle East and Africa – is as wide and diverse as the region.  Doing business in this area requires an awareness of not only the various regulations, but also of their ongoing changes.

With an interest in validating our current knowledge of these legal markets and keeping abreast of the latest trends and challenges in contract management, Contracts 365 headed to London to attend the Corporate Counsel Exchange 2016.  For those not familiar with the Corporate Counsel Exchange, it is a global collaborative network of legal experts who provide news and thought leadership on the latest global challenges and opportunities in navigating the regulatory landscape, transforming legal department management.  The organization also delivers real value in an increasingly complex and competitive global marketplace. Hosted by the IQPC, International Quality & Productivity Center, the Exchange featured numerous prominent speakers in the divisions of both corporate governance as well as compliance.  It was an exciting journey for us - not only were we able to meet with compliance and legal executives from across the globe - we also participated in roundtable discussions focusing on the art of doing business in the EMEA from a legal and regulatory perspective.  In our This Week in Contract Management blog, I'm happy to share our key takeaways and conclusions from our sessions.  More specifically, we'll review the following three topics as discussed by legal leadership in EMEA.

  • Lack of Innovation in Legal Industry
  • Business Ethics Awareness
  • Identifying and Managing Risk

Lack of Innovation in Legal Industry

One of the key principles of Contracts 365 is to challenge status quo and to operate with an innovative mindset. Given our focus in contract management automation and leveraging technology to solve legal business challenges, we were particularly interested in the session, "Working With Us, Not For Us". The discussion was led by an esteemed panel which included:

As the discussion began, the immediate focus centered on a lack of innovation within current EMEA legal firms.  Ellis, a key figure on Abercrombie & Kent's legal team, noted that in today's business environment, current and perspective business partners no longer value the standard and general approach when conducting business.  They now place greater importance on partners who can deliver the most innovative solutions. Innovation should be a key value proposition for firms in these regions, but it is an area that is not being maximized to its full potential. Tellman, Pearson's General Counsel, says that in the legal industry, business partners think about innovation in a very narrow-minded way.  He juxtaposed the legal industry to the accounting industry, a field that has grasped the concept of innovation and has applied it to its day to day business practices.  Accounting firms have become a full service industry, developing their insight and expertise in providing consulting services and tech support.  He questioned and encouraged the legal field to follow a similar trajectory.

Business Ethics: The Short Cut Guide to Business Ethics Awareness

Robbie O'Brien, a speaker at the conference and CEO of MetaCompliance, a London based firm providing policy management software, says that bribery has cost the European economy £99 Billion.  That is not a misread.  £99 Billion!  The BBC states, "64% of British respondents said they believed corruption to be widespread in the UK, while the EU average was 74% on that question."  The broadcasting company further adds, "Organized crime groups have sophisticated networks across Europe. The EU police agency Europol says there are at least 3,000 of them."

It was both surprising and concerning to learn how pervasive corruption is throughout these regions. Bribery is often viewed as essential for business survival, and companies must navigate these controversial waters when conducting business.  A code of ethics should be the identity of any organization, but to do business in this region requires flexibility in this historically rigid area. This presents various complications for disclosure and compliance.  How can we be successful as an organization if we are not in compliance with industry regulations?

Identifying and Managing Risk

Throughout the show, one theme was frequently discussed: identifying and managing risk.  The topic was further discussed among a distinguished panel, including:

The group stressed just how important mitigating risk is to the success of any business.  All four members stressed the rise of risk management as an ongoing business issue, and noted that preventing it requires a long term vision.  Companies need to have an open line of communication to ensure that key deliverables and initiatives are met on time, and are completed in an appropriate and professional manner.  And, for those situations when a deliverable is missed, organizations need to understand the "What If?"  What if we miss a key date or essential legal terms in a contract?  All four speakers stressed the importance of accepting the "What If" philosophy when conducting business.

As we prepared for our trip home, we contemplated the information presented to us.  EMEA is a prime region to explore business opportunities – not only for us as a contract management software provider, but also for all global companies.  Jason Popp, Executive Vice President of International at GES and a frequent contributor to many global business journals, suggests focusing on EMEA. "One reason" says Popp, 'is location'.  The Middle East, after all, is conveniently tucked between Europe, Asia and Africa.  Factors such as an expanding middle class and urbanization are spurring consumer spending, and governments are promoting certain areas of the economy.  Rules and laws are favorable to businesses.  In Dubai for instance, there's a customs-free corridor between the airport and the port, meaning raw materials can be imported and exported free of charge."

As we at Contracts 365 consider not only our expanding global footprint, but also our product roadmap, it was extremely helpful for us to have attended these sessions.  We left the Exchange better informed with a variety of ideas on how to augment our product footprint and methodology to better address these legal challenges.

Next Week's Blog

In next week's blog, we identify the many ways a well-run contract management system can provide a competitive advantage for your business.  Stay tuned for next week!