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In-house leaders navigate risk as workloads continue to rise

LOD and SYKE’s recent global survey of 169 legal, risk and compliance professionals has revealed the main strategic and management challenges being faced by in-house legal teams today.

user iconJess Feyder 19 September 2022 Corporate Counsel
In-house leaders navigate risk as workloads continue to rise
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LOD, a global support company for in-house legal teams, and SKYE, a technology operations consultancy, have released their global survey report for 2022.

The report includes insights from 75 legal leaders and identifies their key priorities, where they are investing and how teams can best demonstrate value to their organisation.

The key theme of the report is the challenge of balancing risk management as workloads continue to increase.


The report also revealed the global challenge of retaining and hiring good people, the perceptions of legal department value by business, and the widespread lack of strategy behind technology.

Ensuring risk is addressed appropriately was cited as a top strategic focus by 68 per cent of legal leaders. This statistic has risen consistently over recent years, compounded by the need to prioritise large volumes of work, which was highlighted by 60 per cent of survey participants.

Tom Hartley, LOD Group chief executive, said: “Astute GCs are meeting this dual-pronged challenge by ensuring that their team’s service delivery is fit-for-purpose, not gold-plated.

“This isn’t to suggest the balancing act of mitigating risk and getting your work done is easy — it’s a tightrope that requires both legal and commercial experience to know where to focus your efforts.”

Team management issues are also at the front of legal leaders’ minds.

Against the backdrop of a tightening legal recruitment market, 51 per cent mentioned the need to provide career development and training opportunities to their teams.

Effective structuring of workloads — and ensuring the right type of work goes to the right people — came in a close second at 50 per cent.

The key theme of managing risk while workloads increase was reflected in the top four areas of investment.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest focus of investment is lawyers; this was highlighted by 66 per cent of respondents. Risk and compliance expertise came second (25 per cent), then self-serve tools (24 per cent) and both legal operations and outsourcing workstreams (23 per cent).

In-house leaders were also asked to gauge their teams’ reputation within their organisation — 45 per cent stated that they were highly valued. 

Interestingly, this figure increased to 55 per cent for those legal leaders with a clear tech strategy and to nearly 67 per cent for those that strongly agreed with the use of data to boost their value.

“Three hallmarks of a successful legal team emerge from this year’s survey: visibility, flexibility, and vision,” Mr Hartley added. 

“Visibility in two ways — the team is visible across your organisation as a vital department, and also, visibility in the form of objective data about the contracts, risk levels and matters being run by the legal team.

“Flexibility in how the team is resourced — armed with data the team can scale up and down with the right blend of specialities and seniority. Finally, vision in having a strategy that underpins its operations. This combination of characteristics creates a legal function that is agile, effective, and able to prove its value to the business.”

Predicting future trends, the report noted that talent retention is likely to stay as a top priority — and stated that streamlining contracts to use advanced management and automation systems would boost the value of in-house teams.

It was highlighted that the demand for specialists, particularly risk and compliance experts, is growing in line with the deepening risk landscape and growing complexity, which results in the need to find balance in having an effective spread of generalists and specialists in in-house legal teams. 

Creating tighter integration between legal and business was a key recommendation given to in-house teams; being closer to other business functions achieves the objective of boosting understanding of the business and allows in-house teams to better identify potential legal issues. 

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