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What’s keeping in-house teams up at night?

New research has captured the biggest operational headwinds facing in-house teams and how they expect these challenges to play out over the next three years.

user iconEmma Musgrave 16 April 2021 Corporate Counsel
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EY Law, in partnership with Harvard Law School, has launched the findings from its global survey of over 2,000 respondents that looked to gauge how law departments are responding to both challenges and priorities for the 2021 calendar year.

Last week, Lawyers Weekly published findings related to financial headaches in the report, with the research showing that despite respondents expecting workloads to increase by 25 per cent over the next three years, 75 per cent do not expect budgets to keep the pace.

Further, the report shone a spotlight on operational-specific challenges that are hindering results.


Risk management was identified by a large proportion of general counsel respondents, with them noting they lack confidence in their department’s ability to identify, measure and handle complex risks facing their organisations.

Around 65 per cent of respondents said they dont have the data or other technology support measures to be able to respond to a breach, while 78 per cent noted they dont track contractual obligations. Further, 68 per cent explained they do not have access to accurate, up-to-date information on their legal entities.

Looking ahead at the next three years, respondents noted great challenges when it comes to recruitment and retention. On one hand, they anticipate a rise in headcount of just 3 per cent over three years and on the other, almost half say that the increasing volume of low-value work has impacted employee morale, which could ultimately lead to increased turnover.

Commenting off the back of the findings, Cornelius Grossmann, EY global law co-leader, said: “As the world starts to move toward economic recovery, enabling growth will be a crucial priority for organisations all over the world.

If organisations are to thrive and businesses are to remain compliant, law, procurement and commercial contracting departments will need to ensure they are ready to face an ever-growing list of regulatory risks.

Finding the right balance of strategies between insourcing, co-sourcing, data and technology, and centers of excellence, among many others, is critical. Business leaders must elevate transformation of their legal departments if they are to operate efficiently, be competitive, and retain talent.”

David B. Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law, vice-dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and faculty director of the Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School, added: “As companies look toward a post-COVID-19 economic recovery, identifying and managing complex risks at the intersection of law, business, strategy, human resources, and sustainability will be more important than ever.

To help business leaders drive growth in this next normal, General Counsels will have to accelerate the transformation process already underway in the legal department, leveraging greater use of data and technology solutions, and a more effective and efficient use of the full range of external providers.

This process will not be easy and will require business leaders to invest more resources initially. But this up-front investment is critical if General Counsels are to develop the tools they need to evaluate the cost and quality of the full range of resources, and to deploy them effectively to reduce risk and drive growth.”

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