Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Unpacking the notable and irreversible alterations to law departments

In just the last year or so, substantial changes have occurred within corporate legal teams, with new research detailing where such evolution is occurring.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 16 April 2024 Corporate Counsel
expand image

The fourth part of FTI and Relativity’s General Counsel Report was recently made available, which focuses on how legal department management, operations and distribution of work have matured. The report was created based on interviews with 60 general counsel or chief legal officers globally, roughly half of whom work in businesses with more than $500 million in annual revenue.

In late February, Lawyers Weekly hosted a live-streamed webcast with FTI and Relativity, which focused on the headline issues, challenges, trends, and opportunities facing general counsel, chief legal officers and heads of legal as 2024 gets into full swing. You can still register to view that webcast here.

The report deduced that the purview and approach of corporate legal departments “have been notably and irreversibly altered in recent years”, with some of the most marked changes taking place between 2023 and 2024.


“General counsel are more technology inclined, more focused on running a strategic and efficient department, more targeted in how they allocate their resources,” the report read.

“This period of transition has not been seamless, and ongoing technology disruption will create both challenges and opportunities.”

This said, the report continued, corporate legal leaders “can now see the end game they are working towards”: that is, a legal department that is redesigned and reinforced, FTI and Relativity posited.

“An efficient, strategic business function that has technology and processes in place to reduce risk, support critical decisions and absorb demand, despite continually shifting external pressures,” they said.

The alterations alluded to can be seen across myriad areas of the law department’s daily operations, as detailed by the report.

On the question of types of legal work, FTI and Relativity wrote that over nine in 10 law department leaders have seen increases in various workstreams, including: new laws or regulations requiring policy refreshes or headcount changes (59 per cent have seen an increase), contract management demands (45 per cent), data breaches (38 per cent), M&A activity (29 per cent), fraud, corruption, or employee misconduct (26 per cent), and disputes and civil litigation (24 per cent).

Further to this, 32 per cent of GCs and CLOs are seeing increases in demand for compliance monitoring, with increases also being demanded for data privacy work (27 per cent see increases), business strategy and risk management (21 per cent), contracting (21 per cent), and disputes (19 per cent).

As a result, law department leaders are having to be “increasingly rigorous in how they resource and staff” their teams, the report said.

On the question of how the top issues are impacting staffing, operations and resourcing, the report outlined that 34 per cent are increasingly reliant on outside experts and/or counsel. The same volume of respondents have seen changes in team structure and/or internal resources, and 14 per cent respectively are seeing the exploration of technology and process improvements, and efforts on legal operations, as impacting staffing and resourcing.

With regard to legal operations, the report noted that this function has “gained traction within many corporate legal departments”, with a marked upswing in recent years.

“The increased mindshare dedicated to legal operations is at least in part a side effect of the general counsel’s insistence on running a proactive and strategic department,” the report opined.

More than two in five (42 per cent) of law department leaders said their teams have a dedicated legal ops professional, and over half (53 per cent) said that there is an appetite to delegate more operational decisions to such a professional.

When it comes to the people themselves, four in five (82 per cent) of department leaders said that they manage “stable” teams, with most respondents noting that hybrid and remote working environments have “helped uphold a sense of balance and thus reinforced retention”, the report said.

On the DEI front, over two in three GCs and CLOs advised that the progress of the diversity, inclusion and belonging programs at their organisations has improved over the past year, while 25 per cent said they have remained the same.

DEI was described as being a focused priority for many law department leaders, the report suggested, with allocated budgets, ownership, objectives and benchmarks among 55 per cent of the respondents.