A new year brings change. And while there might be plenty we’re content to leave behind in 2021, disruptive forces are waiting in the wings – especially for corporate legal departments.
From evolving legal tech to the rise of legal ops, there are numerous challenges and opportunities ahead for legal teams. Strategizing can help these key players prepare for what is coming next, and carry that momentum through 2022 and beyond.
1. Digital transformation of legal departments
Coming out of the pandemic, the legal department’s relationship with technology has changed. In the past 18 months, in-house legal has become significantly more familiar with virtual tools, alongside remote and hybrid working.
That shift is here to stay. As general counsel become more familiar with automation and other technology-driven efficiencies, they’re looking for even more ways to boost productivity. According to market analysts Gartner, legal departments will have tripled their technology spending by 2025 to make up 12% of the entire in-house budget.
Reporting, compliance, risk management, litigation and dispute management – no area of legal operations will remain untouched by technology. This new technology-driven mindset is revolutionizing how legal departments spend their time and resources, with numerous powerful benefits to their productivity, compliance, and overall governance.
2. Contract automatization
A critical facet of the cresting digital wave is automation. Delegating many formulaic processes to automated technology frees up legal teams and results in significant time and cost savings.
Automation can be extremely beneficial in contract management, archiving closed accounts and monitoring ongoing activity through the entire contract lifecycle. Using a contract management tool keeps all materials together in a secure, central hub which automatically categorizes documents, tracks timelines and sends out alerts.
Embedding this kind of seamless workflow into the egal department doesn’t just save time. It can make the entire team more efficient by reducing human error, improving service delivery and reducing risk.
3. The rise of Legal Ops
Already a mainstay of legal departments in North America, legal ops (legal operations) are increasingly integrated into in-house legal teams in Europe to reinforce the organizational strategy and the move towards further digital transformation.
Legal operations are best thought of as a support system for in-house counsel. Their role is to drive efficiencies through improved planning, budgeting, and technology uptake. Some companies may hire a single Legal Operations Officer, while others an entire team headed by the Chief Legal Operations Officer (CLOO).
According to a recent survey from the Association of Corporate Counsel, 61% of legal departments now employ at least one legal ops professional – in comparison to just 21% in 2015. Of those Chief Legal Officers surveyed for the study, 13% indicated that they hope to hire more legal ops staff in the immediate future.
As legal tech takes center stage, the role of legal ops is gaining more importance. Their multidisciplinary and business-focused approach means these employees are pivotal to maximizing resources and streamlining law departments for productivity gains.
4. Tightening legal budgets
The drive to cut costs is nothing new, but 2022 will likely see legal departments doubling down on eliminating inefficiencies to tighten their spend.
After a year of severe market disruption, companies will be especially eager to save where they can and legal departments won’t escape budgetary scrutiny. Again, legal ops will play a leading role in delivering these savings, using digital tools to identify areas of improvement.
This will require renewed focus on legal analytics, looking at the data to set KPIs, track performance and ensure targets are met.
5. Legal departments becoming strategic players
General counsel are expected to take more of a strategic role in the future, becoming actively involved in executive decision-making and planning.
In-house legal teams will likely find themselves deepening their engagement with the board, moving to an advisory role and weighing in on broader corporate governance issues such as ESG concerns, revenue generation, employment matters, business operations, cybersecurity and compliance.
Preparing for the future
As the year comes to a close, there’s still a lot of uncertainty as Europe struggles to emerge from the pandemic. However, as with every year, productivity will be the principle driver underpinning industry trends. Technology will undoubtedly be the most significant tailwind as new tools emerge to help legal teams reduce risk, hit targets, and see greater savings.
DiliTrust Governance offers a complete SaaS solution for legal departments looking to maximize their resources and eliminate inefficiencies. The intuitive, collaborative, and ultra-secure tools include legal entity management, litigation management, contract management and documentation archiving.
Now is the time to plan and prepare for what lies ahead in 2022. Early adoption of industry leading-solutions will help legal teams become more resilient so they can remain nimble in the face of both predicted waves and unexpected squalls.