Deloitte found that legal departments are under pressure to do more with less, and are increasingly focused on legal operations and technology. 41% of survey respondents are planning to evaluate and/or implement Intake solutions in the next 12 months, and 35% will do the same for Matter Management.
Deloitte’s 15th Annual Law Department Operations Survey offers valuable insights into the current state of legal operations and provides a glimpse into the trends that are likely to shape the industry in the coming year.
The survey collected responses from 172 law departments across a range of industries, providing an in-depth look at the challenges and opportunities facing legal teams today. From managing costs and increasing efficiency to adopting new technologies and navigating regulatory compliance, Deloitte’s survey covers a wide range of topics that are essential for legal professionals to stay on top of.
In this article, we’ve distilled the survey’s findings into 6 key takeaways that offer actionable insights and tips for legal professionals looking to stay ahead of the curve.
1. Legal intake, matter management, and workflow automation solutions are top tech priorities for in-house legal
Legal service request and intake solutions and matter management solutions are the top two types of tech that legal professionals are looking to implement in the next 12 months. 41% of survey respondents are planning to evaluate and/or implement legal service request and intake solutions, and 35% will do the same for matter management solutions.
The emphasis on legal service request and intake solutions and matter management solutions, in particular, underscores the importance of streamlining these processes to better support the needs of the business. As legal departments continue to evolve and become more closely integrated with the rest of the enterprise, it will be interesting to see how their use of technology evolves and what new trends and solutions emerge in the years ahead.
Technology is key for legal operations
The survey shows a remarkable increase in the number of legal departments with a multiyear technology strategy or road map. Almost half of the respondents, a whopping 48%, now have a long-term plan in place, which is a significant increase from the stagnant one-third who had such plans for years.
What’s even more exciting is that this trend is gaining momentum, with 40% of those surveyed planning to develop their own multiyear technology strategy or road map. The legal industry is finally becoming aware of the value of specialized technology.
This shift in mindset is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has been notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. But with the rapid pace of technological advancement, it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who fail to plan for the future risk being left behind.
2. Legal is becoming far more closely integrated with the rest of the business
Law departments are becoming far more closely integrated with the rest of the enterprise, with more areas of oversight and involvement in strategic initiatives outside of legal. Deloitte’s survey highlights that over 86% of respondents said that they were occasionally or frequently involved in strategic initiatives outside of legal, up from 79% in the previous year.
Furthermore, legal professionals are engaging more frequently with their colleagues and executives on the business side. A staggering 68% of respondents reported interfacing with the executive suite at least weekly, demonstrating the vital role that legal departments are playing in shaping the organization’s overall strategic direction.
3. Legal departments are under pressure to do more with less
Legal departments are under increasing pressure to do more with less. As their responsibilities expand, legal professionals must find ways to manage their budgets and cope with the rising demand for legal services. The survey found that nearly 60% of respondents reported that their department’s budget had either remained the same or decreased over the past year, and 41% said that their department had been asked to reduce costs.
However, legal departments cannot afford to let budget constraints hold them back from supporting their organizations effectively. They must continue to manage risks, drive innovation, and improve efficiency while working with limited resources. This has led to a greater reliance on legal operations and technology to find ways to cope.
4. Legal operations teams are becoming more important (again)
As legal departments face increasing pressure to manage costs and improve efficiency, legal operations is becoming even more important. The survey found that legal operations functions are now established in 77% of law departments, up from 71% in 2020. Moreover, legal operations professionals are taking on a wider range of responsibilities, including project management, technology implementation, and vendor management.
To succeed in this changing landscape, legal professionals must embrace legal operations as a key driver of efficiency and innovation. By working closely with legal ops teams, they can identify opportunities to optimize processes, leverage technology solutions, and drive better outcomes for the business. This will be crucial in the years ahead as workloads continue to rise for legal times while headcount remains flat.
5. Diversity and inclusion is a growing priority
The legal industry is increasingly recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, and this is reflected in the findings of the Deloitte survey. More than 60% of respondents reported that their legal department has established D&I initiatives, with nearly 40% having a dedicated D&I professional on staff.
In addition to this, legal departments are taking steps to promote D&I in their outside counsel relationships, with 57% considering diversity and inclusion when selecting outside counsel. As D&I continues to be a priority across industries, it is encouraging to see the legal profession take steps toward promoting a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
6. Legal departments are looking to generate revenue through recoveries
In-house legal professionals are evolving their role from traditional risk mitigation to value creation. The survey shows that over 32% of respondents are now tracking “recoveries,” or affirmative claims and litigation that generate revenue through the legal function.
This trend is a clear indication of the growing recognition of the legal function’s potential to contribute to the company’s success. By identifying opportunities to generate revenue and offset legal costs, in-house legal professionals can demonstrate their strategic value and help to drive the success of the organization. Becoming a value creator in this way can also help to entrench the role of in-house legal professionals as strategic partners throughout the organization.
So what should legal departments do?
Based on these survey findings, legal departments should consider taking the following actions:
- Evaluate intake and matter management solutions: Legal departments should invest in software that streamlines intake, organizes matters and requests, and provides real-time data analytics to make better decisions.
- Embrace workflow technology to drive efficiency: Implement legal workflow automation to minimize repetitive tasks, streamline workflows, and leverage data to drive continuous improvement.
- Focus on talent management: Prioritize talent management to ensure they have the right people with the right skills to deliver value to their organizations. This includes investing in training and development programs to upskill existing staff and recruiting new talent where necessary.
- Increase collaboration: Seek to increase collaboration with other departments and stakeholders within their organizations. By working closely with other functions, legal departments can better understand business priorities and provide more strategic advice to support these priorities.
As legal departments are under increasing pressure to do more with less, legal operations is becoming more important, and technology is playing a key role in improving efficiency and driving innovation. By staying up to date with these trends and adopting best practices, legal departments can position themselves for success in the coming year and beyond.
Deloitte’s full survey is available to download here.