Architecting a New Paradigm in Legal Governance

By Michael Rasmussen

Editor’s note: Today we are featuring a guest blog post from Michael Rasmussen, the GRC Pundit & Analyst at GRC 20/20 Research, LLC.

Exponential growth and change in business strategy, risks, regulations, globalization, distributed operations, competitive velocity, technology, and business data encumbers organizations of all sizes. Gone are the years of simplicity in business operations.

Managing the complexity of business from a legal and privacy perspective, governing information that is pervasive throughout the organization, and keeping continuous business and legal change in sync is a significant challenge for boards, executives, as well as the legal professionals in the legal department. Organizations need an integrated strategy, process, information, and technology architecture to govern legal, meet legal commitments, and manage legal uncertainty and risk in a way that is efficient, effective, and agile and extends into the broader enterprise GRC architecture.

In my previous blog, Operationalizing GRC in Context of Legal & Privacy: The Last Mile of GRC, I began this discussion, and here I aim to expound on it further from a legal context.

Legal today is more than legal matters, actions, and contracts. Today’s legal organization has to respond to incident/breach reporting and notification laws in a timely and compliant manner, respond to Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR), harmonize and monitor retentions obligations, conduct eDiscovery, manage legal holds on data, and continuously monitor regulations and legislation and apply them to a business context.

In today’s global business environment, a broad spectrum of economic, political, social, legal, and regulatory changes are continually bombarding the organization. The organization continues to see exponential growth of regulatory requirements and legal obligations (often conflicting and overlapping) that must be met, which multiply as the organization expands global operations, products, and services. This requires an integrated approach to legal governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) with a goal to reliably achieve objectives while addressing uncertainty and act with integrity.[1] This includes adherence to mandatory legal requirements and voluntary organizational values and the boundaries each organization establishes. The legal department, with responsibility for understanding matter management, issue identification, investigations, policy management, reporting and filing, legal risk, and the regulatory obligations faced by the organization, is a critical player in GRC (what is understood as Enterprise or Integrated GRC), as well as improving GRC within the legal function itself.

A successful legal management information architecture will be able to connect information across risk management and business systems. This requires a robust and adaptable legal information architecture that can model the complexity of legal information, discovery, transactions, interactions, relationship, cause and effect, and the analysis of information, which can integrate and manage a range of business systems and external data. Key to this information architecture is a clear data inventory and map of information that informs the organization of what data it has, who in the organization owns it, what regulatory retention obligations are attached to it, and what third parties have access to it. This is a fundamental requirement for applying process and effectively operationalizing an organization’s GRC activities, as detailed in the previous blog.

There can and should be an integrated technology architecture that extends GRC technology and operationalizes it in a legal and privacy context. This connects the fabric of the legal processes, information, discovery, and other technologies together across the organization. This is a hub of operationalizing GRC and requires that it be able to integrate and connect with a variety of other business systems, such as specialized legal discovery solutions and integrate with broader enterprise GRC technology.

The right technology architecture choice for an organization involves the integration of several components into a core enterprise GRC and Legal GRC architecture – which can facilitate the integration and correlation of legal information, discovery, analytics, and reporting. Organizations suffer when they take a myopic view of GRC technology that fails to connect all the dots and provide context to discovery, business analytics, objectives, and strategy in the real-time that a business operates in. 

Extending and operationalizing GRC processes and technology in context of legal and privacy enables the organization to use its resources wisely to prevent undesirable outcomes and maximize advantages while striving to achieve its objectives. A key focus is to provide legal assurance that processes are designed to mitigate the most significant legal issues and are operating as designed. Effective management of legal risk and exposure is critical to the board and executive management, who need a reliable way to provide assurance to stakeholders that the enterprise plans to both preserve and create value. Mature GRC enables the organization to weigh multiple inputs from both internal and external contexts and use a variety of methods to analyze legal risk and provide analytics and modeling.


[1] This is the OCEG definition of GRC.

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Filed under Best Practices, CaCPA, eDiscovery & Compliance, GDPR, Information Governance, Information Management, Uncategorized

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