- General counsel are being asked to do more and keep costs down at the same time, a survey by Thomson Reuters Institute and the Legal Value Network finds.
- Eighty-five percent of respondents in 107 corporate legal departments say controlling costs is a priority even as 65% say their matter volumes are increasing.
- “Corporate law departments continue to face the brunt of pressure points involving cost control, increasing workloads, and staffing concerns,” say analysts in the 2022 Legal Department Operations Index.
Forty-nine percent of corporate law professionals say bringing more legal work in-house is a priority, yet 59% say their budget is either flat or decreasing.
That’s leading to an increased effort to adopt efficiency-creating technologies, with 71% calling that a priority.
The top technology adoptions are for e-billing and matter management, e-signatures and legal research. More sophisticated technologies, like those that automate workflows or use robotic processing, remain rare.
Meanwhile, much of the technology that departments have brought on board is underused, in part because few departments have dedicated legal ops teams that can help with adoption.
There’s a “sense of frustration among legal department operations professionals concerning the pace of change around technology,” the report says.
The biggest cost issue remains the use of outside firms.
Forty-four percent of departments say they’re spending more than $10 million a year on that.
Keeping these costs down is the budget priority of 85% of legal departments, and yet 47% say the cost is nevertheless going up and 52% say they’re bringing more legal matters in-house.
The main cost-control tactic is simply enforcing the department’s billing guidelines and seeking reductions in invoices and fees. More aggressive measures, like using a competitive bidding process, working with firms that accept a flat fee or other alternative fee arrangements remain little used.
“It’s possible these tactics have a low ranking simply because they have not proven particularly effective, [but] it’s more likely they are viewed as less effective because their actual use remains relatively rare,” the report says.
Seventy-three percent of departments say they have some legal ops staff, but the figure is probably an overstatement because it includes paralegals or administrative assistants who are tasked with work on operations and aren’t specialists hired for the purpose.
“The function of managing legal operations is spread very widely across roles,” the report says. “Also, legal operations tasks are unlikely to be confined to one particular role or job title.”