New research shows that almost all corporate counsel believe that pandemic-inspired changes to daily legal practice will become permanent.
On Wednesday, 15 July, LOD published its “At A Crossroads?” report, comprising responses from a survey of 383 in-house legal and compliance professionals across 250 companies in 25 sectors around the world, which focused on the impacts of COVID-19. It also included interviews from 161 team leaders.
The report confirms, LOD proclaimed, the myriad opportunities and positive implications beginning to emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic for general counsel and their teams.
It found that over eight in 10 (83 per cent) of corporate counsel believe that initiatives brought in as a response to the pandemic will become permanent. These include more regular communication with key colleagues (65 per cent), stronger focus on team wellbeing (65 per cent) and a greater prioritisation of work, which will enable teams to focus on more strategic matters, such use of technology (60 per cent).
This is supported, LOD noted, by the finding that two-thirds (65 per cent) feel they have a better appreciation for the importance of communication and team management, and the fact that 60 per cent of professionals have been able to transition smoothly to remote working, with only 12 per cent saying they experienced challenges doing so.
Elsewhere, the report found that one-third (33 per cent) of corporate counsel believe their role has evolved into one of a “trusted adviser”, focused on revenue and pivoting the business.
This is not to say that the pandemic and the workplace changes have not bee challenging for many, LOD added. Over 90 per cent of legal teams reported having been moderately or severely impacted by the pandemic, with 59 per cent citing increased workload, 54 per cent experiencing new or more immediate priorities and 65 per cent saying it is difficult to gauge the quantum of workload over the long-term and how that will impact the team.
Reflecting on the results, LOD Australia managing director Paul Cowling said that a number of “the lessons learned are here to stay”.
“Almost overnight, teams have had to become more agile and efficient and improve and refine their ability to prioritise and communicate effectively. It is also excellent to see the significant increase in focus on wellbeing during a time of crisis,” he proclaimed.
“We suspect that in-house teams have taken steps in the past few months that may otherwise have taken years to implement and we must now embrace those changes and ensure they are sustainable for the [long-term].”
LOD CEO Tom Hartley added: “Without downplaying the severity of the pandemic on our personal and professional lives, the findings of our survey confirm our belief that the best corporate legal teams will improve through this crisis.”
“We must embrace some of the more sustainable and efficient work practices that were made in the crucible of coronavirus.”
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Julian Burnside AO QC (barrister)
Bernard Collaery (barrister, former Attorney-General of the ACT)
Kate Eastman SC (barrister and co-founder, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights)
The Honourable Robert French AC (former chief justice, High Court of Australia)
Sue Kench (global chief executive, King & Wood Mallesons)
The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC (chief justice, High Court of Australia)
The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG (former justice, High Court of Australia)
Jane Needham SC (barrister and former president, NSW Bar Association)
Geoffrey Robertson AO QC (barrister)
Professor Gillian Triggs (assistant secretary-general, United Nations and former president, Australian Human Rights Commission)