Legal Life 2020: In-house/external links become vital
To project what life as an in-house lawyer might be like in 2020, it is instructive to look at past trends that will carry forward into the future.The key battle for in-house counsel over recent
To project what life as an in-house lawyer might be like in 2020, it is instructive to look at past trends that will carry forward into the future.
The key battle for in-house counsel over recent years was to establish conclusively that they added value and were not just a cost to their organisations. As long as that was in doubt, the in-house profession could never gain the full confidence of its clientele nor the recognition and respect of the broader legal profession.
With the globalisation of business and the development of a much more complex legal and economic environment, the business landscape changed. In-house counsel with their unique business knowledge and "one-stop-shop" capacity came into their own. As a result, career opportunities and remuneration in the sector rose.
In-house lawyers today constitute nearly 30 per cent of the legal profession and that percentage seems certain to grow. But in-house practitioners also face ever-rising workloads and severe difficulties attracting and retaining staff. Worse, with the rising demand for commercially oriented legal advice and constant pressure on turnaround times and cost, perhaps the greatest challenge facing them is to maintain their professional standards and independence.
Looking towards 2020 I foresee the development of a closer, more flexible, client-driven relationship between in-house and external counsel. In this looser setting, the legal resource - external and internal - will be seen essentially as a single unit, allowing a greater sharing of human and legal resources, a different - more project-oriented - cost and profit structure, greater job satisfaction and more effective and efficient business outcomes.
If, in the same time-frame, government can achieve a uniformly regulated, more open Australian legal profession, with buy-in and representation from all the interested parties, the decade ahead will have been an exciting one indeed!
- Peter Turner is the chief executive officer of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association