European in-house teams ramp up 'efficiency and effectiveness' efforts, study finds

Thomson Reuters report shows Covid-19 has also increased their focus on business 'safeguarding'

European in-house legal departments are stepping up their focus on efficiency and effectiveness to help their organisations respond to a constantly evolving set of business risks and fresh disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Thomson Reuters and Acritas study.

The 2020 State of the European Corporate Legal Departments report showed that corporate legal teams ranked efficiency and effectiveness as top priorities, followed by safeguarding their organisations, with the latter growing in precedence since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Lisa Hart Shepherd, vice president of research strategy and founder of Acritas, which is now part of Thomson Reuters, said: “In the current climate, legal departments are taking additional steps to mitigate risk, looking to minimise potential disputes that may arise from all of the different impacts of the pandemic.”

She added: “At the same time, legal departments are facing budgetary constraints and heightened demand from their organisations, so the drive for efficiency and effectiveness remain ever-present priorities.”

The report showed that in-house teams view efficiency as more than just cost control and includes embracing innovation, technology and automation to make work easier for legal departments. Efforts to be more effective centre on supporting their organisations’ strategic goals and being a ‘quick, agile, practically-minded business partner’.

Based on the findings of the report, Thomson Reuters said European corporate legal departments can learn from their peers in the region and globally by following three key recommendations. Those included investing in technology and using data to give in-house teams greater insights into their organisations so that business colleagues see them more as a strategic advisor rather than a cost centre.

The second pillar is to collaborate with other business functions to drive efficiencies, while the third is to review their suppliers and recognise the importance of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) as a way to bring in specialist or cross-border expertise. In-house teams in Europe are spending 7% of their budgets on ALSPs, slightly above the global average, the report showed.

The report was based on 578 interviews with European corporate legal department professionals, with the research period beginning before the start of the pandemic but continuing throughout 2020.

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