In-house lawyers ‘punching above their weight’
In-house counsel are responding to increasing pressures by finding innovative ways to add value to their organisations, according to a survey.
The survey In-House Counsel Trends For FY18, conducted recently by professional services software provider InfoTrack, showed that in-house teams are finding ways to boost their efficiency despite budget pressures.
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Of the 138 in-house lawyers surveyed, 52 per cent reported that their main strategy for increasing productivity was implementing time-saving technology, although budget constraints meant the same percentage did not plan to increase their spending on technology in FY18.
Some respondents indicated that they were looking to introduce technology upgrades such as a new telephone and internet system, file management system or manual process automation, as well as hoping to gain a bigger budget to enable them to invest in artificial intelligence technology.
“In-house lawyers are experiencing the same commercial pressure to be more efficient, effective and commercially oriented as the [private practice] firms,” InfoTrack CEO John Ahern told Lawyers Weekly.
“They are also punching above their weight in terms of adding value. Earlier this year, Telstra and Woolworths were two of just 12 companies globally that the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) recognised as 2017 value champions for technology-driven improvements that ensured their legal department is a strong contributor to the business.
“Both collaborated with outside firms or legal service providers to harness technology to allow real-time access to metrics to reduce legal spend and improve their department’s performance. In effect, what they are doing is working with cost-efficient external parties to develop and integrate time-saving technologies that free up resources to work on legal matters in-house.”
Respondents’ budget expectations were roughly split, with 51 per cent expecting an increase in their overall budget in FY18 and 49 per cent expecting no increase.
While some commented that they expected budget increases in line with previous years, others reported that they had been asked to reduce their spending, were seeking a significant increase to their budget or were feeling pressured to “do more with less”.
Mr Ahern said that while many in-house teams may not experience budget increases, they will continue to innovate.
“Frankly, I don’t think we will see an increase in in-house legal budgets anytime soon,” he said.
“What we will see, however, will be greater innovation and collaboration between in-house legal departments, law firms and legal service providers.”