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Leigh Dance has written, published and spoken extensively on many aspects of global legal services, at major global conferences and in business and legal industry publications worldwide, including The Wall Street Journal.  Click here for our extensive archive of past (we believe still insightful!) published articles.

Dance is author of Bright Ideas:  Insights from Legal Luminaries Worldwide, published by Mill City Press and available on Amazon.  Bright Ideas is a compilation of 23 original essays by leaders and influencers around the world.

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Why is the right info so hard to get?

This article is excerpted from a longer version which appeared in ALM’s Corporate Counsel in my Global In-House column.   Global in-house counsel are challenged to find good information.  When providing cross-border in-house legal advice, it's necessary for much of your job, including to:

  • know who you are entering into business with;
  • identify and prioritize legal risks particular to your sector/product/situation;
  • avoid real problems when untangling a cross-border venture;
  • manage disputes efficiently with acceptable outcomes,
  • prepare for what’s coming in trade sanctions or policy shifts

Law and enforcement in business is 1) locally relevant, 2) globally connected, and 3) complex. Important nuances are often absent even in excellent information sources.  Or the data is not on point enough to truly answer your question.

What steps can you take to make sure you have the right information to make a decision or provide advice in a foreign territory?

The high value of context and insight

Try to find two or three bits of information or insight that will help you correctly answer questions about your company’s new venture in Uruguay. You may want to know more about individuals, organizations, laws, regulatory officials, politics, economics, business practices or risk probabilities.  But there’s no time for thorough, time-consuming research.

Who do you ask?  In working inside an organization, we quickly learn that reliabile information varies greatly by source. Asking the right questions and correctly evaluating answers from individuals is a key competency as you build your career, and far more difficult across cultures and languages.

As you move from Provo to Prague to Penang, you will get better at distinguishing objective from subjective, rational from hysterical, true from hearsay, and sense from nonsense.  And you’ll learn the extraordinary value of good information.

Mountains of data and no answer to your question

Good information for global in-house counsel is that which gives specific context and insights from real, relevant events and experiences. Content providers around the world generally don’t aim to provide such context.  Internal data is great for controls, seeing trends and spotting anomalies. Secondary information gives background and support. But that doesn’t cut it.

Ours is a world where hack communicators regularly take unsound information they find in social media and repeat it as truth.  You must take action to ensure that you and your fellow  legal and compliance professionals are discerning readers.

Where does one find good info?  Studies (of educated business people in many countries) show that search engines are the most trusted source for company information.* But if you have enough pulse to move a mouse, you know the wacky stuff that pops up in a Google search.

Who you gonna call?

As a global counsel, data-mining skills aren’t enough to separate truth from rubbish in foreign territory. News on legal developments are a dime a dozen. The specific, valued insights are usually delivered one-to-one or one to a few.  Global in-house counsel must regularly seek out trusted contacts who can help advise in difficult situations.

To paraphrase the Ghostbusters’ mantra, here’s where to turn to get the best info possible:

  1. For each of your company’s primary geographic markets, find a few individual sources to contact when in need. You’ll need two or three people with on-the-ground experience to call; individuals w/ varied cultural and work backgrounds that you trust will understand your question and its context. Renew this search annually.
  2. Identify and get to know people in your organization that seem to have lots of insights and can communicate clearly. Try to seek out those that have been around for years; they can be a treasure trove of organizational history. Be ready to listen to everyone at every level.  Remember to ask, “What else do I need to know?”
  3. Always have a few advisers to call when you face a new or particularly difficult situation; one that could define your career. Often the situation will determine who you call. A good adviser uses her experience to frame the issue, recognize more facets, and discuss options. It can be the most precious information you’ll ever get.

*Edelman Trust Barometer 2016

See the complete article from March 7th on the Corporate Counsel site: http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202751524270/Why-Good-Information-Is-Crucial-to-Your-Job-and-How-to-Get-It#ixzz42JlGX8eL