The corporate legal operations role in Europe has seen tremendous growth over the past two years, and general counsel (GC) rely more on technology for productivity gains as they focus on strategic business goals. That’s according to the General Counsel Barometer 2019, released by Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions, the market-leading provider of enterprise legal spend and matter management, contract lifecycle management, and legal analytics solutions.
The General Counsel Barometer 2019, published with The Lawyer, shows that GCs are expected to play a more strategic role in their organizations, a trend that has increased since it was reported in the General Counsel Barometer 2017. The study explores how the role of a GC has changed to adapt to the evolving complexities of the legal and economic environment while embracing new technologies that offer enhanced capabilities, analytics, and opportunities for significant cost management. Highlights include the following:
- Legal operations: 35% of companies said that they have at least one legal operations professional, compared to 4% in 2017. 73% of companies with over 150 legal professionals now have a dedicated legal operations professional.
- Strategic focus: 78% of respondents stated that their role has become increasingly strategic, a significant rise from 38% in 2017. As company size increases, the law department is more likely to have a strategic focus over a functional one.
- Adding value: 48% of respondents reported that the top priority for their legal department over the next 12 months is adding value to the business and becoming a more strategic business partner. While in 2017, improving internal efficiency was seen as the top priority for general counsel.
- Technology investment: 72% of respondents expect to see investments in technology increase over the next 12 months. According to 70% of respondents, the main reason for investing in technology is to increase the productivity of the legal team. When asked what areas of technology were expected to deliver efficiency gains to lawyers, 64% said contract lifecycle management.
- Shifting resources: The survey revealed corporations have moved less specialized work from law firms to in-house counsel. 42% of respondents said they conduct 61-80% of work in-house, a 27% increase since 2017. Specialized work is still often outsourced to traditional law firms - 73% of respondents send highly technical work like patent services and due diligence to an outside provider.
“This year’s survey demonstrates that as GCs in Europe are expected to play increasingly strategic roles within their businesses, legal operations professionals have emerged and are demanding technology that drives efficiency,” says Barry Ader, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management for Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions. “According to the survey, GCs will seek technology solutions that help reduce the cost of legal operations and increase efficiency within the organization. This will allow them to not only dedicate time toward strategic business initiatives but also arm them with key business intelligence through enhanced reporting and analytics.”
Enabling the legal department to think strategically, as opposed to reactively, can impact the entire business. According to respondents, GCs insist on being involved in transactions and other business decisions early on so their strategic advice can have an impact on the bottom-line.
Legal technology has enabled GCs to focus on strategic issues, which is critical given the trading and political challenges in today’s global economy. One major technological development is the use of AI for legal operations to automate routine tasks. “We leverage technology to engage and manage outside counsel and legal service providers,” said Maurus Schreyvogel, Chief Legal Innovation Officer at Swiss-based Novartis International AG said.