Mumbai, 13 February 2024: Industry specific regulations, and data protection and privacy rules pose some of the biggest challenges to in-house legal teams in India as per the latest survey by Khaitan & Co, a leading full-service law firm. The ‘In-House Counsel Survey 2024’ highlights how the role of in-house legal functions is rapidly transforming amidst changing business and regulatory requirements in a digital economy. Organisations and their in-house counsel teams are increasingly recognising the potential of technology to enhance efficiency, with 75.2% acknowledging that technology and innovative legal tech products can result in significant gains. 90.3% of respondents emphasise the role of technology in improving the efficiency of legal operations, whereas 84% highlight technology’s potential in process standardisation and consistency.
Rabindra Jhunjhunwala, Partner, Khaitan & Co said, “As businesses navigate an era defined by digital evolution and regulatory complexities, in-house counsel teams must gear up to play an active role to build future ready organisations. Our survey aims to serves as a guide and throw light on the transformative journey of in-house counsel as C-suites and Boards increasingly turn to them for guidance, assurance and security. The survey further underscores our commitment to providing insights for organizations to grow and thrive in this dynamic legal environment.”
The survey comprises insights from over 400 in-house counsel across India. It outlines the evolving roles and responsibilities of in-house counsel, and emerging risks, challenges, and priorities for organisations which will shape India’s legal landscape.
- Confronting industry-led legal challenges: Amidst rising global volatility and a fluctuating regulatory regime, businesses operating in India are faced with intricate legal challenges. 65% of the respondents identified industry- specific regulations as the primary challenge for in-house legal teams.
Organisations and their in-house counsel in healthcare can anticipate a slew of reforms due to a surge in demand from global and domestic stakeholders. India’s fintech industry has also recently garnered regulatory attention, with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introducing several regulations related to digital lending, payments, and Central Bank Digital Currency. In-house counsel are also charting the course for the renewable energy sector, given the government’s formulation of various regulations, policies, and guidelines to regulate the sector.
- Data privacy regulations: As India enters a new era of digital regulation with the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023 and the upcoming Digital India Act, the onus on organisations and their legal teams to elevate data privacy standards, mitigate liabilities, and comply with evolving regulations has increased significantly. The survey highlights that the majority of the respondents are responsible for managing their organisation data privacy and protection, and cybersecurity functions. 44% of respondents identified data privacy and protection laws as one of the key legal concerns, while 65.5% have data privacy, protection, and cybersecurity within the ambit of in-house legal teams. Additionally, 54% foresee the need for external legal support on data privacy laws in the next 12 months.
- Widening ambit of in-house legal teams: Legal teams have an expanded role and focus, with 77.9% respondents prioritising compliance, 65.5% addressing data privacy and protection, cybersecurity, 61% focusing on governance and ethics, and 29.2% exploring environmental, social and governance (ESG) and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
- Uptick in litigation, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions: The evolving legal landscape has witnessed an increase in litigation and M&A activities, prompting 65.5% of respondents to seek external legal expertise for areas such as compliance, tax laws, and reputational risk.
- Rising white collar crime concerns: Post-COVID-19, there has been an uptake in the number of internal investigations and other regulatory and white-collar crime issues. In line with this, 77.9% respondents identified overseeing compliance and 61% highlighted governance and ethics among their key responsibilities. Most In-house counsel identified that their key roles include monitoring ethical conduct, ensuring regulatory compliance, and risk management and planning.
- Enhanced role of external legal advisors: External legal advisors play a pivotal role for businesses. According to the survey, 65.5% of respondents sought their expertise in litigation and dispute resolution, 64.6% in assisting on significant transactions including M&A, and 54% in tackling new data privacy and protection rules.
In-house counsel can consider four critical success factors as they strive to become future ready. The first is adapting to the evolving regulatory landscape and second is leveraging technology, including generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) to enhance efficiency and navigate complexity. The third key area is enhancing compliance assessments, with heightened attention on net-zero goals and increased ESG compliance. Lastly, fostering strategic partnerships with external legal counsel for specialized guidance is crucial. This multifaceted approach will position in-house counsel to tide over legal challenges and thrive in a transforming business landscape.
About Khaitan & Co
Khaitan & Co is a top tier and full-service law firm with over 1000 legal professionals, including over 240 Partners and Counsel, and presence in India and Singapore. With more than a century of experience in practicing law, we offer end-to-end legal solutions in diverse practice areas to our clients across the world. We have a team of highly motivated and dynamic professionals delivering outstanding client service and expert legal advice across a wide gamut of sectors and industries. To know more, visit www.khaitanco.com