Demand for risk and compliance law will continue post-pandemic

Demand for risk and compliance law will continue post-pandemic

At a glance:

  • With everyone and everything moving online, 2020 has been the year of data security.
  • The changes driven by COVID-19 have driven a huge volume of work for Risk & Compliance.
  • In the longer-term, the traditional work of Risk & Compliance will return, with an expected increase of ICO activity in 2021.

Of all practice areas, Risk & Compliance has seen the strongest growth in the past year, with double digit growth in every quarter of 2020, according to the recently released LexisNexis GLP Index, which used anonymised and aggregated data from the Bar Council.

READ THE LEXISNEXIS GLP INDEX REPORT FOR FREE IN-DEPTH INSIGHTS INTO RISK & COMPLIANCE LAW AND OTHER LEGAL PRACTICE AREAS.

So, what's driving this growth, what do businesses need right now, and will demand continue into the future

Changes in individual and business behaviours are driving growth 

Enormous changes in individual and business behaviour has generated a huge volume of work for Risk & Compliance professionals. At the beginning of COVID-19, most people’s lives moved online – from Zoom calls to stay in touch with friends and work colleagues; to buying essential goods online.

Comparing UK online sales against retail, excluding grocery, ecommerce is now 40% of revenue. Even online grocery sales, previously an internet holdout, have doubled (from 5% to 10%) and show no sign of dropping back.

Data privacy and cybersecurity legal expertise is in demand

These changes have brought plenty of Risk & Compliance issues, particularly around data privacy and cybersecurity risks. Retail companies have had to work out how to rapidly expand their online operations securely. For many, this meant collecting customer data to make deliveries for the first time.

As a result of these changes, Risk & Compliance functions within businesses have had to handle the implications of almost all their employees working from home – including moving documents to the cloud and migrating to online business applications, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

ICO activity is down

ICO activity presents more of a mixed picture. Decisions notices (-18%) and bribery enforcement actions (-53%) are down, which isn’t surprising with everyone (including the regulator!) disrupted and forced to work from home.

While fewer data security cases were reported in 2020 compared to 2019 (-34%), this is likely more reflective of the lack of reporting rather than a drop in the underlying cases (indeed volumes have already begun to bounce back).

The number of new regulations grew considerably (+11%), generating plenty of work for Compliance lawyers and adding to an already busy year.

Risk & Compliance will continue to grow in 2021

We likely won’t see another year of growth like 2020 for Risk & Compliance. Businesses have grappled with new ways of working, but will be able to bank most of the advances they’ve made. Nevertheless, the enormous amount of additional legal complexity will still take time to work through.

There are many companies who have focused on surviving COVID-19, rather than addressing serious Risk & Compliance concerns. They will get to these in 2021, providing a strong pipeline of work throughout the year. Likewise, as the ICO gets back to normal working post-COVID, we are likely to see more action and enforcements, particularly for breaches that have gone unnoticed during the tumult of the past year. There will be plenty to keep Risk & Compliance professionals busy.

Our recommendations to the Risk & Compliance practice area

This is the single area of greatest growth in the market – are you taking advantage? Every existing corporate customer you serve in other practice areas is a potential Risk & Compliance prospect. Are you trying to cross-sell work to your existing commercial or employment clients?

Read more about cross-selling opportunities by downloading our free GLP Index report

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About the author:
Dylan is the Content Lead at LexisNexis UK. Prior to writing about law, he covered topics including business, technology, retail, talent management and advertising.