There are a number of fairly common misconceptions about legal registers, which, if held, create an impression that legal registers are not the best solution to the business problem of legal complexity.

Misconception about legal registers #1: Laypeople within companies find legal registers overwhelming and don’t use them, thus, only the legal trained people should be made aware of the legal obligations, through a legal library, and then they should translate, simplify and communicate the legal obligations with the laypeople.

Yet: the truth is that a well-designed and organised legal platform is a joy for a layperson. Such a platform automates much of what lawyers do, and gives the answers to complex questions in a way that laypeople can understand, at their moment of relevance. They are able to get the answer that they need quickly and in terms that they understand. If they have further questions about interpretation, a knowledgeable person is ready to assist them, immediately, to resolve their question.

Misconception about legal registers #2: Training is sufficient for keeping employees up to date with changes in the legal provisions applicable to a company and its business units/sites.

Yet: changes to the applicable legal provision do not fit into training schedules. Subscribing to a centrally maintained and updated legal platform, which is tailored for each business unit/site, is the only answer to manage this complexity efficiently and in a cost effective manner.

Misconception about legal registers #3: Legal audits/assessments/inspections can be used to keep employees up to date.

Yet: legal audits typically happen once a year or once every two years, per business unit/site. The point of an audit is to assess compliance with the applicable legal provisions, not for the employees to learn about and be kept up to date with the law and the legal provisions that should have been complied with.

Misconception about legal registers #4: It’s possible to link operational risk to legal risk by referencing legal provisions manually and then supplying access to the law arising in a legal library.

Yet: this may be the biggest misconception. In effect linking each row to an aspects and impacts register (“AIR”) or hazards identification risk assessment (“HIRA”) to the legal requirements, in a manual way, amounts to providing a legal answer to the complex legal question posed by each row. Unless this process is automated, by an intelligent legal platform, the job is an almost impossible one, to be undertaken in a time-based manner, which will need to be repeated again and again due to the legal framework and operational activities at the company being updated on an ongoing basis.

Misconception about legal registers #5: All legal registers are made the same, therefore when one discusses “legal registers” one always means the same thing.

Yet: this misconception has been addressed above: not all legal registers are made equal. A good legal register solves the Business Problem of Complex Legal Obligations and a poorly presented and organised legal register does not, and possibly makes the problem worse.

Misconception about legal registers #6: The utility achieved through a legal register can be replicated more cheaply in-house or by using other more general compliance systems/tools that may already by employed by the company.

Yet: a good legal register automates the rules based thinking that in-house legal personal do. The legal budget of organisations that use good legal registers will either be reduced, or the in- house legal teams can be freed up to focus on the interpretation of the relevant legal
provisions and compliance strategy, rather than researching which provisions apply. General compliance systems/tools are not designed to be good legal registers and are seldom comprehensive or site-specific, especially in regard to all applicable EHS legal provisions.

Misconception about legal registers #7: Many of the legal provisions identified in a legal register are minor. Identifying “everything” is too overwhelming and confusing. It is better to only focus on the important things. A company should have a list of the “main” or “most important” Acts – and focus on complying with those.

Yet: The law is binary: a company either complies with any given legal provision or it does not. It should not be comforting to believe that since a company complies with a list of legislation that it deems to be the most important, that it is therefore in a good position from a compliance perspective. In truth, many, if not most of the most important EHS legal provisions are contained in regulations or by-laws. A company needs to see the full set of EHS legal provisions applicable to each business unit/site in order to begin to decide how to rank its compliance priorities.

Misconception about legal registers #8: Focusing on site-specific applicability is “overkill,” it’s perfectly acceptable to create a company wide list of applicable legal provisions.

Yet: because of the operational and geographic variation present from site to site, the legal provisions applicable to each site will vary. Creating a company-wide list, by definition, assumes “one size fits all.” This is never the case. If one size fits, all then too many legal provisions will be delivered for each site. Too many legal provisions is both confusing and intimidating for users. A user is unable to discern if a given provision applies to them or not. A good legal register will deliver not only the relevant legal provisions, but do so on a specific topic or risk basis as well.


Find out when a company needs a legal register here.