As a firm expands into new markets, complexities created by geography-specific business requirements mandate an integrated global approach to conflicts assessment and clearance for both new and expanded matters. To seize opportunities and keep up with the accelerated pace of business, savvy firms are quickly moving to professionalize the conflicts-clearance role to support business agility.

risk management strategy

Creating a global footprint to assess and clear conflicts

Historically, firms hired clerical teams to perform rote tasks related to conflicts searching and data management, working within close physical proximity and under direct supervision by leadership. Comprised of entry-level employees, these staff members typically did not have the formal training, analytical skills, or supportive technology required to assess complex conflicts relationships.

In direct response to the complexities created by operating across a plethora of global jurisdictions — each with unique regulatory requirements — firms are evolving their staffing strategies to meet these demands. If firms are going to successfully compete in a diverse set of global markets, they need local staff in place with deep knowledge around the regulatory requirements and business nuances specific to their unique jurisdictions. It’s important to staff these positions with self-starters who have not only local market expertise, but also the capacity to apply sound judgment to the conflicts assessment and clearance process from start to finish.

Professionalizing the conflicts assessment role

The success of a firm’s global risk management strategy starts with professionalizing the conflicts role, and empowering professionals to work together seamlessly by deploying the right risk management software. For firms with a mature conflicts team, it makes sense to hire, train, and mentor entry-level employees within the core team and create tiered staffing levels with opportunities for promotion. For firms in the beginning phase of building out their professionalized conflicts teams, the focus is usually on hiring junior lawyers with practice experience who are ready on Day One — and the confidence to research issues thoroughly, communicate with lawyers directly, and apply judgment correctly. Staff members who are deployed to new jurisdictions must be on the senior side of the firm demographic.

Improving business agility

To keep up with the accelerated pace of global business, successful conflicts teams operate around the clock, pushing workflow through the pipeline — via risk management software — across time zones and jurisdictions. To stay ahead of the game on conflicts, smart firms follow the sun — when the business day is over in one part of the world, it opens in another. Success requires hiring staff with elevated skill sets and specializations dispersed across the globe, and having technology in place to seamlessly connect them and provide immediate access to critical information, wherever they are located.

Although operating on a continuous, 24-hour cycle significantly decreases timeframes for conflicts resolution, success is contingent on immediate access to subject matter experts (SMEs) with deep knowledge and experience in certain practice areas, specific tasks, jurisdictions, and regulatory requirements. With the right technology in place, members of the conflicts team can be in immediate contact with specialists around the globe.

Mitigating risk while building a competitive edge

Improving business agility drives competitive advantage, and astute firms balance expansion with critical risk mitigation protocols. When firms continuously add new jurisdictions to their global footprint, they need firmwide measures in place to prevent exposure to regulatory risk. While having compliance experts in place in specific jurisdictions is important, it’s impossible to effectively manage compliance risk at the jurisdiction level from a firmwide perspective. The only way to implement a global risk management strategy is to establish baseline standards to ensure that protocols meet or exceed the most stringent regulatory requirements across all regions.

By professionalizing conflicts staff, firms can outsmart the competition by not only building the dexterity to act quickly and decisively across jurisdictions, but also providing seamless access to critical skills and firmwide expertise. A combination of the right staff and best-in-class technology positions firms to penetrate new markets rapidly while mitigating risk.

The annual Intapp Law Firms Risk Staffing Survey identified definitive trends toward adopting global policies, as well as centralizing and professionalizing risk teams. Submit your 2019 information and contribute to insight around the trends affecting legal risk teams today. All survey participants will receive a copy of the survey results.

North American law firms can participate in the survey here

United Kingdom and European law firms can participate in the survey here

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