CIOs should get to know their chief legal officers

Corporate CIOs and chief legal officers (CLOs) have a lot to talk about: data privacy, e-discovery and policies for employee mobile devices, to name a few topics. But a recent Gartner survey of 70 CLOs found that over half (51 percent) of them said they have conversations with CIOs no more than once a month.

The Gartner report recommends that CIOs and CLOs have regular, frequent and in-depth meetings so they can build a better relationship and understand each other's requirements, capabilities and outstanding issues. Of the CLOs who talk to their CIOs more than once a month, large majorities said they had changed their legal strategies or corporate policies after the conversation.

The study found that the polled CLOs consider CIOs to be important strategic partners. "Risk management is an increasingly important concern for CLOs, and they recognize that it requires significant input from IT," the Gartner report says.

But the CLOs complain that "CIOs are typically not engaged early enough or deeply enough in merger and acquisition activity," the report says.

The CLOs said that they're generally satisfied with IT's support of standard IT functions, but less satisfied with IT's support for legal-specific technologies such as e-discovery and litigation support.

Janis O'Bryan, CIO of Hudson Advisors, a commercial mortgage and real estate company, says she meets with her legal team on a regular basis regarding topics such as SEC regulations and global data privacy rules.

O'Bryan adds that the equivalent of half a person on her IT team is responsible for e-discovery. "We deal with unhappy borrowers and distressed debt, so we are constantly [pulling records] for our legal team," she says.

The key to a better IT-legal relationship is to break down language barriers, O'Bryan says. IT must not only explain technology issues to the legal staff, she says, but also "be knowledgeable about risks and translate that to business language so the legal team can understand."

Read more about legal in CIO's Legal Drilldown.

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