Today’s modern corporate law department has taken a more proactive position within its organisation, seeking not to be seen (as it too often was in the past) as a cost centre or — worse yet — the department of “No!” that kept other department’s business initiatives from moving forward.
Instead, today’s corporate law department is working to add value to their organisation, whether through innovation and improved efficiency or by developing collaborative partnerships that will benefit the organisation and offer better outcomes.
In the inaugural annual report on US corporate law departments from Thomson Reuters and Acritas, successful modern corporate law departments are seen today as those that embrace innovation, are data- and metrics-driven, and work collaboratively with outside counsel and other parties to create optimal results. The report analysed data and research from Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker, Acritas and the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC).
The report — the “2018 State of Corporate Law Departments” (available for free download on the right) — also notes that corporate law departments are reporting more satisfaction with the value they see generated by their outside counsel.
The average satisfaction rating given to outside counsel based on value has increased 9 per cent over the last five years and showed improvements across all areas of legal service delivery, according to the report. Not surprisingly, the report also notes that corporate law departments identified controlling outside counsel costs as their number-one priority.
The report also examines how corporate law departments are seeking to leverage technology, focus on innovation and instill a greater sense of discipline to the business operations of the department — so it’s not surprising that half of corporate law departments now have dedicated legal operations roles.
Overall, it’s a change within corporate law departments that is a result of the dramatic shifts the legal industry has witnessed over the past decade. Corporate law departments are now the empowered buyers of legal services and are finding many more opportunities to flex that muscle, whether being more cost-conscious with their traditional outside counsel, or by looking to alternative legal service providers for some of their legal needs. At the same time, however, corporate law departments are also under pressure from their own organisations as companies seek to control their own costs. This has led directly to law departments bringing more work in-house and embracing technology and process improvement to give their organisations better results.
“Corporate legal departments are adjusting to deal with dynamic businesses and shifting legal landscapes,” said Chris Maguire, managing director of the US Corporate segment of Thomson Reuters. “Increasingly, they are looking to leverage technology to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and better manage risk and compliance.”