Will legal work be subsumed into businesses?
By 2025, it is likely that legal processes “that are not bespoke” will be done by the broader business and not the legal department.
Recently, the KPMG legal operations transformation services practice made 10 predictions for the legal function by the year 2025, including that – by the middle of this decade – all standardised legal work will be permanently subsumed into the business or organisation.
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“Pressure to reduce costs and growing comfort with automated solutions will likely combine to see routine legal work move out of the legal team’s hands and into the business. Any legal processes that are not bespoke will be automated and self-service enabled,” KPMG wrote.
“This will permanently change the scope of legal services that legal functions deliver, tightening risk management and producing efficiency gains while freeing up time for leaner legal teams to focus on higher value work.
“In step with how client experience will be at the heart of legal delivery, however, legal teams will need to take care that any self-service options for the business are easy to use and provide a good quality experience for internal clients.”
Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, KPMG global head of legal services Stuart Fuller said that such changes are already happening. The future is already here, he noted, around standardised documentation such as memorandums of understanding – “the legal team perfects them once and then the business can fill out the variables, sign them, and move on”.
“When it comes to standard contracts for employment, procurement and franchising, for example, if the position is no negotiation, or negotiate X and change X to Y, and you can still sign that, this is the type of thing that is perfectly capable of being subsumed into the business, freeing up the legal team to then move on to the next level of improvement, spending more time with the business and being that strategic advisor in the front office, not the back office,” he explained.
There is no “zero to 100” in terms of responsibilities, Mr Fuller noted.
“We aren’t saying, in any way, shape or form, that in a sophisticated M&A transaction or capital markets transaction, you would let the legal team just automate it once. But there are particular kinds of contracts where the business can put those parameters around it and then let the rest of the business get onto it,” he said.
When asked what kind of impact this would have on private practice, Mr Fuller said that “the business environment that our clients are operating in is only getting more complicated, and so the need for great in-house counsel that can support the business, in my view, is bigger than ever before”.
“The need for great lawyers is actually greater than ever, because no matter how you look at it, the world over the next five or 10 years is only going to be more complicated than the last five or 10 years,” he said.
In the same episode, Mr Fuller espoused KPMG’s prediction that, by the middle of this decade, legal teams will be measured on “strict KPIs”, such as the money they make for the business, and that leadership of the legal function will need to expand as the traditional general counsel role will be unable to manage everything the department touches.
To listen to the full episode with Stuart Fuller, click below: