We spoke to many in-house counsel at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s national conference in Brisbane last month. From our conversations it was clear in-house teams face a variety of challenges and the conference was a great opportunity to share knowledge about new technologies, best practices for internal collaboration, and using flexible lawyers to augment in-house teams and help them achieve better results.
To quantify the real pressure-points, we surveyed attendees* about the challenges they face. The results confirmed that there are a wide variety of challenges confronting in-house counsel. In this survey report, we clustered those issues into 16 distinct groups. While this diversity of issues reflects the variety in size and shape of in-house communities, some challenges were common.
Figure 1: Survey results identified 16 groups of issues, including some common challenges.
Nearly a quarter of respondees named managing workloads in the top three challenges they face. Related issues of team structuring and headcount restraints and talent management, including achieving a work-life balance for team members, were also common. Additionally, the pressure to reduce legal spend and cost-management issues continue to be front of mind.
Happily, in-house teams seem to have bred good organisational cultures, and are confident in their ability to align their legal strategy with the overall business strategy of their organisations.
In-house counsel we spoke with discussed the difficulties in balancing the day-to-day requests they receive from their internal clients, where they have solid team capabilities, with the unexpected strains when the focus of the business changes and they need to deliver additional legal and strategic support. That might be because of regulatory and compliance changes, new projects, or the impact of some of the past year’s high-profile investigations.
For example, there was quite a bit of discussion during breakouts about what financial institutions’ legal teams might expect following the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry and their need to be prepared for changes to protocols and documentation. The challenges of managing the expectations of internal clients on a day-to-day basis, let alone when the sands shift dramatically, was reinforced in our survey results.
Sometimes disruption is caused by something as simple as a team member taking leave, affecting the regular workload allocation across the legal department.
Technology is providing some marvellous tools for in-house teams to better manage workflow through legal departments and achieve some great efficiencies – although the integration of new technologies with existing processes was also raised as a challenge by respondees to the survey.
More than a quarter of respondees collectively highlighted the pressure to reduce legal spend, manage costs, and balance team structures with constraints of increasing permanent headcount, amongst their top three challenges.
Matching workload to available capacity and skills is hard enough in a legal department when the work type and load are predictable. While this can be addressed with flexible resourcing in-house, finding the right individuals with the right skills to achieve the right results for the business when times get busy or the demands of the business change can also be challenging.
When permanent recruitment is out of the question, many in-house counsel first turn to their external law firms for secondees. Unfortunately, this is not always a solution as demand for secondments exceeds supply – a frustration vented by many we spoke with at the ACC conference.
Tapping into the flexible lawyer market can provide a solution. A flexible law resource firm like Orbit can find you a pre-vetted, appropriately skilled lawyer at short notice. This can significantly offset some of the pressures faced by in-house teams.
If you’re looking for a flexible and practical legal resourcing solution to a temporary gap in your legal team or for a new project, email or call Greg Monks for a confidential conversation on how Orbit can work for you.
Head of Orbit
Phone: +61 3 9672 3187