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2 in 3 legal leaders concerned about a technical skills gap

For legal and compliance leaders, competition around technical skills is set to intensify in 2024, according to new data from Gartner.

user iconLauren Croft 06 February 2024 Corporate Counsel
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A growing technical skills gap is a top concern for legal and compliance leaders, according to a new survey. In September last year, Gartner surveyed 179 legal, compliance and privacy leaders – and found that 65 per cent of respondents noted a technical skills gap among their top five concerns in the next two years.

The rapid deployment of generative artificial intelligence (AI) within businesses across the globe and a host of new technical regulations, such as the Digital Markets Act and e-privacy regulation, require combinations of technical, and legal or compliance skills that are currently in very short supply, according to Stuart Strome, director, research in the Gartner legal, risk and compliance practice.

“Typically seen as a barrier to innovation, legal and compliance functions will struggle to compete for this kind of talent, even within the company, against departments that offer better career advancement opportunities and can provide more enticing benefits and compensation packages,” he said.


“Heads of legal departments should start developing their long-term talent management strategy. Even lawyers right out of school won’t be equipped with certain in-demand skills, so leaders must create opportunities in their departments for lawyers to learn these skills – either on the job or through partnership with educational institutions.”

According to the Gartner research, lawyers may reportedly be resistant to incorporating new technology into their workflows, especially if it requires major changes to how they operate.

“Legal leaders must be able to communicate these requirements to business partners and have a sufficient level of technical understanding to know whether their companies’ efforts will achieve compliance,” Mr Strome added.

As such, there are four main areas where scarce technical skills will impact legal and compliance teams: internal skills development, internal technical partnerships, workload allocation and team management strategy.

Gartner emphasised that, with approximately half of legal work sent to external providers, legal departments should prioritise sending work to outside counsel that requires technical experience when it is too costly to develop in-house.

Moving forward, there will also be in-demand areas where legal and compliance will not be able to hire all the skills they need, and Mr Strome said that legal leaders will need to make trade-offs and consider hires they typically would not.

“In the long term, legal departments must ensure they are attractive to candidates with in-demand skills,” he said.

“The competition for this talent is ramping up, and legal leaders will need to partner with HR to develop a talent recruitment strategy and an enticing employee value proposition.”

Some technical skills can also be developed in-house through internal training programs, external courses or partnering with outside counsel. Gartner said that instead of hiring for all skills, legal departments should upskill current staff to fill technical skills gaps where possible.

Other functions in the company – such as IT, information security and data and analytics – are likely to already have employees with the technical skills and expertise needed by legal departments.

“When legal and compliance is seen as a roadblock, other departments may be hesitant to share resources,” Mr Strome added.

“To get access to the technical abilities they will need, legal leaders must cast off this perception and seek mutually beneficial opportunities to share technical skills and capacity.”

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