16 Feb 2022

In-house legal teams are taking on more tech-related responsibilities, new survey finds

Some 97% of surveyed in-house counsel believe they have taken on more responsibility within their company’s tech ecosystem

General counsel are playing a larger role in helping their organisations manage technology-related decision making but only a third believe GCs have adequate technological know-how to manage advanced tech solutions, according to a new report. 

The General Counsel Report 2022, published by US business advisory firm FTI Consulting in partnership with legal and compliance tech company Relativity, revealed that 97% of 30 surveyed in-house lawyers believe they have taken on more responsibility within their company’s tech ecosystem, with 87% of respondents claiming to be heavily involved in aspects beyond providing budget approval like tech planning and purchasing. 

The findings indicate that general counsel’s involvement in tech decision making has increased by 13% over the previous two years, with the subject of technology becoming more prominent in connection to a company’s legal function, especially during the pandemic. 

Wendy King, a senior managing director at FTI Consulting, said that technology modernisation and law department transformation "have continued to evolve as critical priorities for in-house counsel” 

Some 43% of respondents said the pandemic acted as an accelerator for tech initiatives within their organisations, with many reporting the impacts of remote work highlighted the need to ‘improve tech onboarding and better train their teams to get the full value from their existing tools’. 

“To maintain the endurance needed to face the endless list of demands and risks, general counsel will need to invest in technology road-mapping, training and adoption programs for their teams and analytics tools to effectively do more with less,” King added. 

The top areas of tech investment were contract management (40%), matter management (23%) and compliance software (13%), followed by e-billing (10%) and e-discovery software (3%), the report said. 

Proficiency with new tech, however, is a different story, with only around a third of respondents saying they believe in-house attorneys possess adequate tech know-how to support tech improvements, a 20% decrease from the previous year. 

Some respondents referred to improving tech capability as a ‘critical’ area for lawyers to embrace given that higher levels of tech adoption go hand-in-hand with higher levels of data risk and demand for legal department efficiency. 

“Technological competence is becoming more important for many types of lawyers as there are very technical implications of lots of the legal work that modern lawyers perform, in that you need to understand the systems associated with different projects,” one respondent said, adding that a large segment of lawyers are still unfamiliar with the tech that will get the job done. 

“There is a maturity evolution there and I would guess that most lawyers are low on the maturity scale,” they said. 

The report also touched on the use of artificial intelligence within legal departments. Use of AI declined slightly from previous years, with 73% of general counsel saying they do not use AI in their day-to-day operations compared to 67% in 2021, as most ‘do not see it as actionable or usable in a practical sense’. 

Another report published earlier this month by the Association of Corporate Counsel in partnership with Exterro also found that general counsel are assuming a broader scope of responsibilities across more functional areas of their business, including ESG (plus 9%), public and corporate affairs (plus 5%), compliance (plus 4%) and risk (plus 4%). 

 

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