In the current, competitive, economic climate, the most prominent trend for in house legal departments has been borne from cost pressures. With budgets being scrutinised and external costs more difficult to control, businesses are accepting more and more that the ability to internally deal with a broad range of tasks, via a cost-controlled in house legal function, is a good way to improve efficiency.
That notwithstanding, trends unrelated to costs are also emerging; cyber-security, regulatory issues, risk management and dispute resolution are all quickly rising on corporate agendas.
Private practices in-house
Traditionally seen as a cost-centre, in house legal teams are being subjected to increasing amounts of metrics and measurement. As a result, they are under more pressure to demonstrate the ways in which they add value to the business. Heads of Legal are keen to ensure management systems are used as effectively as possible by all staff, to ensure the department’s endeavours are demonstrable in any prospective budgetary meetings, as well as the more traditional outcomes of risk-management and efficiency creation.
Efficiencies are also being achieved in the make-up of the in house legal team; the use of non-lawyer professionals, such as assistants and paralegals is becoming the norm, and qualified staff are being pushed into consulting and supervisory roles over a variety of non-lawyer staff.
Largely unrelated to competitive economics is the increasing amount of activity being applied to cyber threats. As a business risk, General Counsel see cyber security as the fastest growing threat , and there is undoubtedly a significant correlation between this activity and the rapidly expanding cyber security regulatory requirements to which businesses must comply.
Commonly, it is the legal department’s task, alongside the Chief Information Officers, to account to the board for cyber security issues, which requires active monitoring and management of those risks, whilst proactively working to keep them to a minimum. For example, in-house lawyers may need to review data breaches to discern whether they were brought about by error or sabotage, to assess the potential downsides for the business, and to come up with strategies to prevent future occurrences.