16 October 2019

Survey shows general counsels are “on the front lines”

FTI Consulting and Relativity release general counsel survey and report on risk, technology and the evolution of the legal industry,


FTI Consulting has released findings from its technology segment’s study of corporate legal departments, in partnership with Relativity, and the published report reveals an industry in transition.

“On the front lines”

The General Counsel Report: Corporate Legal Departments in 2020, outlines changes in the general counsel’s role over the past decade, how and why in-house legal teams are implementing advanced technology for legal use cases, key areas the general counsel identified for enterprise risk, and their advice for the next generation of lawyers. The report is based on a detailed survey and one-on-one interviews by Ari Kaplan with chief legal officers at corporations of all sizes. The study indicated an industry in transition, with key findings including pervasive enterprise risk is driving general counsel toward expanded roles as business strategists, according to 97 percent of respondents. 40 percent of respondents said they currently use or soon plan to use AI to fulfill legal tasks, such as managing and reviewing business contracts. 75 percent of respondents use SaaS or cloud-based applications to perform legal tasks. 38 percent of general counsel believe legal work will be more technology-driven in the future. 69 percent of general counsel modified their companies’ data privacy policies to adhere to the general data protection regulation (GDPR). “The study illustrates how today’s general counsel are on the front lines, helping their companies navigate a myriad of complex challenges and leveraging advanced technology to do it,” said Sophie Ross, global chief executive officer of FTI Technology. “We collaborated with our partner, Relativity, to develop this study because we are often the general counsel’s trusted advisors to address these challenging matters. We hope that this study brings to light key trends within corporate legal teams and helps general counsel enhance their benchmarking, planning and performance.”

“Room for improvement”

Risk, privacy, security and technology innovation were widely discussed in survey interviews. Many participants acknowledged the increasing pervasiveness of enterprise risk, citing difficulties with complying with the patchwork of regulations on data privacy and security. Some expanded on the issue, claiming that many lawyers still lack understanding of complex data privacy requirements. In parallel, reputational risk caused by an increasingly vocal public emerged as a new area of concern. “The legal industry is at a crossroads, and counsel must now contend with growing responsibilities, expectations and external threats,” said David Horrigan, discovery counsel and legal content director at Relativity. “This study demonstrates that general counsel are ready to embrace their new role, but room for improvement still exists in understanding emerging risks, adopting technology and expanding legal education. Successful legal teams of the future will need a combination of business experience and technology aptitude in order to maintain a valued seat at the table among executive leadership.”

Report briefing

Sophie Ross of FTI Technology, David Horrigan of Relativity and Ari Kaplan will discuss the report findings during "The Business of Law 2020" Relativity Fest session on Monday, October 21st at 11 a.m. In addition, FTI Technology and Relativity will share the results of the study on a November 20th webcast with Corporate Counsel Business Journal. The General Counsel Report: Corporate Legal Departments in 2020 can be found here.

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