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3 Strategic Priorities for Law Departments

Improving functional effectiveness

How corporate law departments seek to improve their effectiveness—the way they undertake their business and what impact it has on the corporation as a whole—goes a long way in determining what kind of law department they are.

Today, corporate leaders are placing a lot of pressure on corporate law departments to foster greater collaboration with other corporate departments and functions as boards demand a more integrated approach to how the company does business. Even as this push demands that corporate law department leaders reach out, there are additional new demands for advice and support driven by regulations in data, climate change, and sustainability that will keep pulling them back into their core duties.

Negotiating this balance will have a profound impact on corporate law departments’ effectiveness. And the more advanced law departments will increasingly lean on data analytics to improve the precision with which they deploy their resources, allowing them to achieve the best possible outcomes in the fastest possible ways. The same tools that are used to increase efficiency, when wisely deployed, also can increase quality and functional effectiveness by imposing discipline, standards, and consistency in an organization’s work processes.

Many types of these tools can be used to deliver better—not just faster—results. These include matter management, contract lifecycle management, document management, and legal project management tools that are all capable of boosting quality and not just speed and efficiency.

Increasing efficiency

Finding new ways to increase efficiency throughout all department operations—everything from eliminating or reducing waste and duplication to finding faster, easier ways of managing workflow—is at the center of many business unit strategies, not just those of law departments.

Corporate law departments are facing pressure from their leaders to find innovative ways to reduce costs, and if outside counsel costs have plateaued, that would mean looking inward at where cuts or improvements could be made. Further, law departments are also needing ways to measure the value they are bringing to the corporate table, including demonstrating how they have costs under control.

Obviously, the adoption of new legal technology and more innovative methods are a big component to
transforming the processes that law departments employ to get their work done, and how this
component is handled will be a key measure of law departments’ success overall. Indeed, leveraging
technology and data enables teams to work smarter, to better measure exposure and predict where problems might emerge, enabling managers to deploy their resources in optimal ways.

Safeguarding the company

Corporate law departments’ role in safeguarding the company goes beyond just mitigating a rising legal threat or regulatory entanglement. Safeguarding means ensuring the sustainability of the company and its business model and working in a way that gives the company the ability to face changing regulations, legal trends, and external problems.

As part of this effort, corporate law departments need to support the career paths of their in-house staff, promoting their development and well-being in order to make certain the talent the team offers is best suited and ready for the job: “…law departments will increasingly lean on data analytics to improve the precision with which they deploy their resources.”

New way of working

Taken together, these 3 strategic priorities that corporate law department leaders have called most critical are, at the outset, the building blocks departments need to use to create a new way of working that will be more efficient and effective while allowing departments to deliver on their core duty of safeguarding the company.

Beyond the surface, however, departments’ approach to each of these priorities needs to delve to a deeper level, unlocking the processes, tools, and talent they will need to flourish in managing the in-house legal function and demonstrating their true value to the corporation. In this report, we explore these ideas in greater detail and welcome your feedback and comments.

This article is an excerpt from the 2020 State of the Corporate Law Departments report by Thomson Reuters and Acritas, now a part of Thomson Reuters.

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