‘Constant firefighting’ a reality for many in-house teams
Operational pitfalls and economic headwinds mean that nearly half of in-house legal teams are less able to plan ahead – which may be contributing to depleted staff morale, according to new research.
LOD and SYKE – which were acquired by Consilio in August – have produced the fourth annual Global Survey Report, exploring the state of in-house legal teams around the world in this calendar year. The report was based on a global survey of 332 legal, risk and compliance professionals.
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The report found that, as a result of current economic conditions, a lack of ability to plan for the future (i.e., “constantly firefighting”) was the most-cited impact that survey respondents pointed to in the face of a market that is seeing high inflation, higher cost of living, and a tightening of corporate spend, with nearly one in two (44 per cent) pointing to firefighting as an impact.
This was followed by more legal work as outside spending has been limited or cut, as well as having no budget for investment (both 32 per cent), and team engagement and motivation becoming increasingly challenging (31 per cent).
The report noted: “Economic uncertainty has brought more work across the in-trays of legal departments around the world, so they are feeling the pressure to take on more tasks internally. This helps explain the firefighting sentiment.
“The increasing pressure is also impacting team engagement and motivation – it’s hard to have a happy team when you’re always in crisis mode.”
Perhaps partly as a result of the need for constant firefighting, in-house leaders across the globe are identifying staff morale and retention as the “most widespread emerging issue”. Various push and pull factors, LOD and SYKE wrote, are driving this.
In the United Kingdom and Europe, staff morale and retention is the most identified emerging issue for leaders, and it comes in second place for those in Asia and the Middle East. In Australia and the US, it was the third-most cited emerging issue.
“On the pull side, we see buoyant labour markets and attractive compensation packages. On the push side, we see pressurised working environments arising from firefighting and a lack of career development and training opportunities for in-house counsel,” the report detailed.
Speaking about the findings, LOD Australian managing director Paul Cowling mused that, for in-house legal teams, firefighting isn’t going away any time soon.
Sometimes, he mused, it’s just part of the job.
“However, we’re observing a growing trend where in-house leaders are thoughtfully outsourcing workstreams, helping them to deal with the most important, not just the most urgent,” he noted.
“This boosts both in-house legal delivery and addresses the connected challenge of team morale. Looking forward, we expect more pragmatic AI solutions to roll out and we’ll see leaders move from reflection to action.”
“The scalability of these intelligent tools will help legal leaders and their teams to rise above the ongoing firefighting,” Mr Cowling advised.