Highlights

Legal Design Summit 2019

By 12 September 2019 November 10th, 2019 No Comments

Let me start with a reasonable assumption: White collar workers don’t wake up in the morning thinking “what could I possibly do to bribe someone today?” (or to launder some money today)

And yet, that’s exactly what happens. Corruption alone weighs 2.6 trillion dollars (acc to World Eco Forum, and that was last year). That’s 5% of global GDPAnother frightening figure is the amount of bribes paid every year: 1 trillion $ (World Bank)

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What have companies been doing so far? Spending staggering amounts of money on compliance programs : Several million dollars a year for average multinationals. 

These programs have been described by a compliance expert at the Department Of Justice, Hui Chen, as “mostly lengthy codes of conduct, box-checking processes and mindless training exercises.” Box checking, mindless… if you’ve been involved in compliance programs, these terms probably resonate with you.

In my experience, e-learning is an interesting illustration of the problem. Companies are usually proud to have a “modern” tool. What I’ve seen in practice is managers considering themselves too busy to complete the e-learning, so asking their PAs to do it.This company ended up having the best trained PAs in the world on major compliance issues – the only problem is that they were not the ones making decisions.

This nonsense is what I’ve seen as a general counsel, many people in this room have probably experienced the same meaningless processes, but that’s also a problem with has been recognized by regulators and authorities.

Are compliance programs doomed to fail? 


This question was raised by Hui Chen and Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes in the Harvard Business Review – among many other articles. This article in particular is interesting because it lists all the window dressing components of traditional compliance programs and explains how usual measurement is totally irrelevant.

In this article, the authors explain that ironically, firms routinely defended their compliance efforts, by justifying how many times they have trained wrongdoers on the very topic of their misconduct.  The Department of Justice recognized that firms might be spending a lot and creating all these supposedly sophisticated compliance programs but actually producing hollow facades.

Is that what lawyers are for? Window dressing?

Even putting aside the frustration, and the nonsense, the fact is that:

From a strictly legal stand point, Tick-the-box compliance is no longer enough

Efficiency is not an option – 2017 DOJ “Evaluation of compliance programs”

Also linked to its principles of prosecution (2008) which clearly distinguish between “mere paper programs” and programs which have been “designed and implemented in an effective manner”

Ownership is required – this terms is heavily used in the UN’s practical guide to anti-corruption, in most anti-corruption authorities’ guidelines or reportsSetting up a culture of compliance is the objective – EU level

So how to design real, meaningful and effective compliance programs?

We would like to share with you the methodology, the tools and the learnings thanks to our research and 3 of our latest projects.

What’s our methodology ?

First, we identify the PURPOSE of the document

Before drafting any component of a compliance program, ask yourself and ask the users “what’s the function, what’s the purpose?”

That’s not difficult: 

  • the purpose of training is to prevent misconduct, 
  • whistle blower hotlines are meant to detect misconduct and 
  • codes of conduct should trigger employee behavior in line with company policies and regulations.

At the very beginning of each compliance project we apply the “3 F’s”

Form Follows Function.

The purpose of a document should be the starting point of its design. Once you’ve identified the function, ask yourself what form would make this purpose a reality.

The second step is the USER JOURNEY

That’s obviously a fundamental design tool, based on empathy with the users. Identifying pain points to resolve them when designing the program.

For example, in this anti-corruption workshop, we gathered about 20 representative users, from the most exposed business teams within the group and the EMEA region and identified with them their main steps, when faced with anti-corruption policies.

Why should I listen? That’s a classic engagement problem, however we were surprised to hear that in this specific group, where compliance culture was already quite high.

Isn’t it the job of legal division? Now, that’s an interesting one: “you lawyers sort it out”, when obviously there can’t be a lawyer behind each decision. 

And so, based on the answers we got on this step, we developed the toolbox and decision-making assistance.

The third component is CO-CREATION WITH THE USER

Simply because co-creation triggers seamless adoption: users will easily adopt and apply something they’ve contributed to developing.

Here we developed a daring prototype, that was first refined through co-creation sessions with ICC Belgium, then tested during a user workshop in Brussels. The user workshop gathered a dozen of compliance officers and business teams from various Belgian companies. 

What we found the most interesting was the reaction of the compliance officers: they got really caught in the game!

Our first prototype made only a limited number of keywords appear upfront, and the rest of the text would be discovered through the use of a red filter. 

The compliance officers told us that we had to go further: provide meaningful information upfront, not just keywords, and let users discover the connection with compliance topics, thanks to the use of the red filter.

Why? Simply because in their experience, business people fail to see the connection between compliance “categories” and their daily activity.