In theory, every lawyer in every field around the globe is subject to the rule of law, but for Kenneth Thompson, the rule is especially significant.
Thompson is the general counsel of intellectual property, privacy, and governance at RELX Group, the leading provider of information and analytics to businesses across various industries and around the world.
Before accepting his current position in 2011, Thompson had been chief legal officer for one of RELX’s four business areas, LexisNexis, for six years. In that role, he and the management team examined their business and realized that by providing content, legal analytics, and other critical information to customers around the world, the business itself supported the rule of law. The team embraced the position and even increased their impact through commercial offerings and a corporate social responsibly program. They also became involved in the movement against human trafficking via increased education and involvement with other human rights organizations, including the state’s attorney general and law enforcement in Indiana in preparation for Super Bowl XLVl in 2012.
These experiences and priorities continue to influence Thompson’s work and leadership today at RELX, a company that has business analysts working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and a science group that has worked with Publishers Without Borders.
“At RELX, we are uniquely positioned to contribute to the rule of law,” Thompson says. “Because of our initiatives started at LexisNexis—and thanks to a very supportive CEO and LexisNexis leadership team—the company continues to build on it.”
For example, the legal team at RELX Group has worked with developing nations to gather and print their statutes and laws for the first time as part of both their commercial and corporate responsibility activities. The team also partnered with nonprofit, government, and international organizations to advance the rule of law around the world by hosting symposiums and being involved as corporate citizens. At one International Bar Association meeting in Singapore recently, Thompson was present for important discussions about human rights with the country’s president.
“I’m proud of this work. It has been an incredible intersection of our commercial and social responsibility programs.”
Within the rule of law, another initiative that Thompson was part of championing at LexisNexis was an internal pro bono program he established with forty in-house attorneys. It soon grew to include other JDs employed by the company in different nonlegal capacities, and has expanded into the whole RELX group. It’s an opportunity for lawyers to use their skills on behalf of disadvantaged members of society.
“It has not only unified LexisNexis, but the whole RELX Group,” Thompson says.
Protecting customer data and privacy is a core priority at RELX Group and a primary focus of leadership, which falls perfectly in line with the organization’s commitment to the rule of law. The company’s Information Assurance and Data Protection (IADP) organization is a global operation that reports to Thompson and provides policy and technology coordination of information security across the group. Within IADP, an assurance function tests products and services, identifies and corrects any issues, and reports the results to the executive management team and board audit committee four times annually.
Adjacent to IADP is a dedicated legal team for data privacy and protection that also reports to Thompson. This team stays abreast of laws in all jurisdictions where RELX Group does business, and assists in implementing changes in legal requirements when they arise.
“We take privacy seriously,” Thompson says. “That kind of focus and coordination must come from the top, and it certainly does at RELX.”
Privacy, transparency, excellence, and dedication all come from the top at RELX and are important reasons why Thompson believes in the company’s work. He also views its willingness to defend the rule of law on behalf of others as a characteristic that differentiates the company from others. This same approach is exactly how Thompson views the law in general—“not as a commercial enterprise, but part of who I am.”