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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-house legal teams are rising to meet the challenges of cybersecurity.

The coronavirus pandemic has had many wide-ranging effects on how companies conduct business. Now, according to a new study, one of those changes includes how enterprises cope with the growing need for cybersecurity and privacy.

Specifically, companies are bringing the work of handling cybersecurity in-house.

Cybersecurity eclipses compliance as job number one for CLOs

Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) in Partnership with Exterro, conducted the ACC 2021 CLO Survey, which they released last month. The main take-away, according to ACC, is that cybersecurity ranked most important legal issue among Chief Legal Officers (CLO) for the first time.

Indeed, cybersecurity has now overtaken compliance as their most important business issue.

ACC interviewed 1,000 CLOs across 21 industries in 44 countries. The two organizations found that cybersecurity, along with data privacy, is now the main preoccupation of half of them. Compliance, cybersecurity and data privacy, company ethics, risk assessment and government affairs are most often taking the attention of CLOs today.

The study found that “respondents are increasingly assuming responsibility for their company’s privacy function.” They are expanding their legal operations capacity, and 32% are planning to hire new lawyers.

Insights into in-house legal departments in a pandemic world

The survey also provides insights to the response of in-house legal departments and insights to future plans in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ACC CLO Survey once again provides insights into the ever-increasing depth and breadth of CLOs’ responsibilities and overall importance to organizations,” said Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO of ACC. “2020 accelerated the evolution of this role, forcing CLOs to support their businesses’ operations through a global pandemic, the international reckoning with racial injustice, and both the new socially distant and online workplaces.

“As people continue working from home for the foreseeable future, CLOs are increasingly being asked to assume responsibility for their company’s cybersecurity efforts,” said Robin Grossfeld, Senior Vice President, Global Initiatives at ACC.

“This is presenting a new challenge for many in-house legal teams, and one that is helping to redefine their day-to-day corporate roles.”

In many organizations, cybersecurity has become an integral part of any new product or service, rather than an afterthought.