The author’s company conducted a study to learn how corporate legal departments are operating and gauge their perceptions about the future. They reported conflicting trends: The majority are doing more work in-house, but have no plans to hire and do not expect their budgets to increase. The outlook for corporate legal seems to be more work with fewer resources.
The concept known as “right sourcing” is gaining momentum because it offers a way for in-house attorneys to manage complex legal work on a flat or fixed budget. Several examples are offered, including implementing stop lists, which identify items corporate attorneys will refuse to do because they have little to do with the legal system; re-routing work to specialized shops or hiring in-house experts; and consolidating outside firms and shipping more work to the firms that add the most value. The mechanisms for achieving consolidation include legal spend management systems that automate billing review and provide a dashboard-style view of matters, including duration and outcome, and customized scorecard-style matter analysis that quantifies satisfaction.
Technology is central to improving legal operations. In the study, 37 percent of respondent departments cited plans for increasing technology investment. Technologies for managing information including legal spend, automated matter management and e-discovery will continue to be areas of investment considered by the general counsel. These tools are a means to predict legal spend and compare it to actual budget – a key performance indicator for legal departments.