Survey: GCs’ Ability to Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks Remains Top Concern

May 19, 2015, 8:18 PM

Managing cybersecurity remains the biggest challenge for most general counsel, according to a new report.

It surveyed 200 CEOs, board chairs and directors of NYSE-listed companies who consistently pointed to cybersecurity as the area where general counsel and law departments most need to improve.

“Directors believe general counsel would most benefit from additional expertise in the areas of cybersecurity, social media, and crisis management,” the report found.

The survey itself was conducted online in January and February, and the data was compiled and released earlier this month in a report by the legal search firm BarkerGilmore , which collaborated with NYSE Governance Services and Corporate Board Member.

Robert Barker, co-managing partner of BarkerGilmore, said the findings made sense given the number of data breaches in recent years at Target, Sony and other companies. “Cybersecurity is still so new,” said Barker. “It’s only been the past few years that it’s gotten the attention it has.”

In response to the question, “How would you rate your general counsel with regard to his/her working knowledge of the following corporate issues/areas,” cybersecurity was the only area in which less than half of the survey participants gave a favorable rating to their GCs.

Other areas included ethical compliance, global business and risk management. For cybersecurity, 51 percent graded their GC as either fair or poor, and 49 percent graded their GC as either good or excellent. In every other area, a majority of the survey participants gave their GC a favorable rating.

Additionally, 67 percent of the survey participants said they believed their general counsel and legal department would “most benefit” from additional expertise in cybersecurity.

The directors surveyed also reported being less likely to consult their GCs on cybersecurity and social media, as opposed to compliance, corporate governance and industry knowledge.

John Gilmore, co-managing partner of BarkerGilmore, said his company has seen a definite uptick in the number of corporate legal departments looking for lawyers with data privacy and security expertise. “What most of the clients are doing is they’re relying on us to go out and recruit experts in this area from law firms,” he said.

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