COVID-19 is set to transform the way we work forever, but what does that mean for the future of legal teams?
Lawyers are often behind the curve when it comes to adopting change, partly because the industry must avoid risk which has, for so long, resulted in a need for 'in person' activities, such as wet signatures or attending a courtroom.
Technology has caught up now and the time following the UK's first COVID-19 lockdown has shown that in-house legal teams and law firms can successfully work remotely. However, what is it that in-house lawyers now want for the future – and what does that mean for the make-up and management of future in-house legal teams?
Economic and regulatory changes, developments in the legal market, an increase in volume and complexity of workload and advancing technology are all changing how General Counsel (GCs) and in-house lawyers work, how they see themselves and their roles, and their position in their organisations. But a shift in cultural attitudes is perhaps the biggest risk – and opportunity – for firms looking to create a strong in-house legal team.
The pressures for GCs and in-house lawyers have only been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic having such a profound effect on businesses worldwide, causing issues such as supply chain disruptions, insurance coverage disputes, employment and human rights, occupational safety, and securities filings to name just a few.
To better understand the demographics, characteristics, needs and motivations of in-house teams we conducted a survey of GCs and in-house lawyers. The research follows a survey we partnered with The Lawyer magazine on at the start of 2020. The last year has felt like a lifetime for many of us, but just how much have the priorities of legal teams shifted since the beginning of 2020?
The data is taken from surveys of in-house lawyers and GCs we carried out between January and February 2021, and December 2019 and January 2020.
The surveys included 583 responses from UK-based in-house lawyers.
In-house lawyers identify technology and lack of resource as the biggest challenges they face right now. External trends and regulatory changes, which were identified as the most pressing challenges at the beginning of 2020, are also high on the list of challenges impacting teams.
However, the impact of lack of resource sees the biggest shift in the last year – a rise of 15%.
Brexit tops the list of issues of interest in and outside of work following the UK's departure from the European Union – rising by 13% over the last year.
The overall impact of the global pandemic understandably is also of high interest in and outside of work, followed by regulation, compliance and corporate governance.
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