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06 March 2017 at 11:08 BST

European general counsel plan more strategic and tech-focused future

General counsel at European-based companies are looking to align with business strategy and increase legal department technological capabilities - but there is a significant innovation gap between small and larger companies.

Aurelio Scetta

Companies with revenues under $5 billion could well lose out in the years to come in an increasingly competitive marketplace as they are lagging far behind their larger counterparts in terms of becoming more strategic and utilising technology. The General Counsel Barometer 2017 revealed that 38 percent of respondents, from companies headquartered in European countries, said their roles have become more strategic over the last three years. A total of 54 percent said they believed their work would move in that direction over the next three years.

Gap between large and small

There is a wide gap between larger and smaller companies in these areas. The view towards a more strategic role for GCs in the future varied based on company size - only five percent thought they would become more strategically focused in the coming years in companies with annual revenue under $5 billion. However, companies with revenue of between $5 billion and $25 billion per year -  60 percent of the respondents - said strategy would increasingly be a focus. Those with revenues of more than $25 billion per year- 90 percent of the respondents - noted strategic focus as taking up a bigger part of their job.

Tech gap

However, larger companies were more tech-enabled. While the report found that tech tools deployed in contract management and risk and regulation were common when the survey asked whether companies used ‘legal-specific technology capable of addressing multiple areas of legal process and integrating with other technology applications throughout the business,’ the responses dramatically varied based on the companies' size. Only four percent of respondents at companies with less than $5 billion in annual revenue used this more advanced technology, while 77 percent of respondents at companies with more than $25 billion in annual revenue said they leveraged it.

Lack of resources

‘This survey supports the notion that legal departments outside those in the largest organisations often find themselves tied into functional roles because they lack the resources to become more strategic,' said Mark Stapleton, EMEA managing director for Wolters Kluwer's ELM Solutions which carried out the research. 


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