- Roughly seven in 10 (71%) enterprise employees report that it often takes days or weeks to receive responses from their colleagues in legal departments, a report finds. Along those lines, 65% of survey respondents view legal teams as at least somewhat unresponsive.
- As a result, slightly more than two-thirds of non-legal enterprise employees (67%) spread across four major countries say they bypass legal and its policies, according to a report from legal workflow solution provider Onit.
- Additionally, the quality of interactions between legal teams and other business units decreased across every function, Onit’s 2023 Enterprise Legal Reputation Report found. The research features insights from 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals spread across the U.S., U.K, France and Germany.
The reputation legal departments have for being slow to respond to colleagues is a driving factor behind just 27% of enterprise employees viewing legal as a good business partner, the Onit report said.
Instead, a significant percentage of employees in non-legal units view legal teams as overly bureaucratic (31%), slowing employee productivity (30%), lacking an understanding of business needs (23%) and poor in transparency (22%).
The concerns about legal teams’ responsiveness are “exacerbated by macroeconomic distress and the subsequent pressure on employees to show value by improving operational efficiency amid cost-cutting measures and demands to execute faster,” a press release about the report said.
The report also highlights that a partnership requires two parties, and there is an argument that internal clients may bear some responsibility for the communications issues with legal teams.
“They too may lack sufficient communication or collaboration skills with Legal,” the report said. “Nevertheless, Legal can only control what Legal can control, and the ELR Report reveals an opportunity for the function to prevent chaos over time by improving relations with internal clients through more efficient and responsive interactions.”
If legal departments improved their communications with internal clients, they might bypass the department less frequently.
The 67% of employees who reported bypassing legal teams even though they know it’s against company policy was up from 65% last year.
While U.S. enterprise employees tend to bypass legal departments the least of the four countries’ respondents, their frequency of bypassing rose from 53% in 2022 to 63% entering 2023, according to the Onit report.
Employees from finance, HR, IT, marketing, procurement and sales teams were among those whose views contributed to the report’s findings.
The decline in the quality of other business units’ interactions with legal departments was most pronounced in public-facing, revenue-impacting departments.
Sales reported a 30% percent drop in the quality of interactions and marketing reported a 27% drop, the report said.
“Of myriad reasons, non-legal practitioners call out Legal’s lack of operational efficiency,” the report said.
Onit commissioned Provoke Insights, a New York City-based market research firm, to conduct the research on which the report is based. The research was conducted in November 2022.