According to Dinc Sanver, General Counsel & Local Compliance Officer Turkey & MEA at Teva, the pandemic has accelerated a digital evolution of the legal function, giving rise to a whole new set of challenges.
"The pandemic has brought forth significant challenges to any compliance function. We need to adapt our new SOPs to a new business model and hyperactive legislators," Sanver states. "I am leading an entire region and have felt first-hand the difficulty of not being able to readily access our business partners in countries across our region, but we've slowly been learning how to manage our jobs completely remotely. Has that meant that we've also cut out unnecessary business travels? Of course, but it hasn't always been easy. I still think that location is important. While I couldn't be as connected with our operations on the ground everywhere, I could still rely on my knowledge of the particularities of the region – everything from cultural idiosyncrasies to religious holidays."
"Yes, digitalization has been kicked into hyperdrive," according to Sanver, but, especially in the healthcare sector, data privacy has been an increasing challenge. "While elements like DocuSign are increasingly becoming the norm, it is still too early to expect a full compliance program to be able to run remotely – even in terms of data protection, it is really difficult to get everyone to sign the relevant data processing documentation while they are still keen on staying home." With that in mind, the pandemic has brought forth a "positive development for the entire community, on the long run," according to Sanver, who explains that "Istanbul is a huge city – it can take you three hours to commute and the rise of hybrid working models is certainly a welcome element in this setting."
But "humans will be humans, and, from a legal standpoint, it will always be more difficult to discuss specific terms of an agreement remotely than in person," Sanver states. "Contract negotiations are very much like business negotiations. When you get to touch base with a counterparty in person, you simply have the ability to understand each other better."
Talking about his industry specifically, Sanver explains that medical congresses have always been critical in the healthcare world. Virtual events have finally been addressed by the regulator, with the Government publishing clearer regulations in terms of the type, and caps, of sponsorships that companies can commit to – "in line with the approach to offline events in the past."
Looking towards the future, Sanver expects that digital agreements stored in the cloud will become the standard, but "this will raise some significant questions, both about the nature of and validity of contracts, as well as data privacy. In the real world, there are only so many things you can collect consent for – this evolution will make data privacy compliance all the more complicated and I think we'll be kept busy with a lot of consent forms updating."