In-house counsel will converge, virtually, for the Association of Corporate Counsel’s annual meeting the week of Oct. 12 to discuss the latest on education and law department solutions. Thomson Reuters is honored to be a sponsor of the meeting.

Ahead of the gathering, Legal Current had an opportunity to catch up with Carly Toward, proposition lead for Legal Departments at Thomson Reuters, for her insights on what’s top of mind for in-house counsel as well as findings of the recent Thomson Reuters Legal Department Operations (LDO) Index.

Below is a recap of the conversation.

Legal Current: The LDO Index showed that 81 percent of legal departments surveyed have dedicated legal ops staff, up from 57 percent. It’s the first time in five years of the survey that we’ve seen such a dramatic shift in how legal departments are operating. What’s behind this jump?

Toward: These number show that having a dedicated legal ops teams has absolutely become a requirement for any modern legal department. The shift is striking because we’re talking about a part of the industry where change rarely happens, especially so quickly. It calls to mind another data point from the report: 55 percent of legal departments consider their current pace of change as “moderate” with demonstrable change or “fast” with large-scale advancement each year. Again, it’s remarkable coming from a group that isn’t known for easily adapting to change.

LC: What other key takeaways from the LDO Index caught your eye?

Toward: In-house legal departments are continuing to experience pressure to do more with less, and their use of outside counsel and technology is on the rise due to COVID-19. The pandemic has placed a heavier burden on legal departments, and it’s more important than ever for the legal function to demonstrate value through cost control measures and adoption of technology. That’s why we continue to see legal departments prioritizing controlling outside counsel costs as well as emphasizing data security, internal efficiency, use of technology and a focus on legal operations.

LC: In your role, you frequently talk with customers. What are you hearing about how legal departments are evolving their technology strategies?

Toward: As legal operations bring new strategies and skillsets into the legal department, we see more departments deploying technology roadmaps that align with a three-year strategic legal plan. Legal ops teams are adopting new tools that can free up the legal department staff to focus on higher value work. They are looking to connect technology solutions and integrate with corporate systems to create greater efficiencies. With predominately remote workforces, the adherence and prioritization of technology roadmaps has moved to the forefront not only for legal ops teams, but for general counsel who are faced with the challenge of collaborating with top business leaders solely through technology.

LC: How is Thomson Reuters supporting legal departments managing the growth in workload and dealing with the pressures to do more with less?

Toward: Change isn’t easy, but we partner closely with our legal department customers along the journey. We are in a great position to deliver the solutions and support that legal departments need to control cost, drive efficiency, maximize effectiveness, demonstrate value and act as a business enabler. We feel proud when we see common examples of how our legal department customers use our solutions to create value and ultimately help to maximize the competitive advantage of their businesses.

LC: Thank you, Carly. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.

For more insights, download the full 2020 LDO Index.

Also, we invite 2020 ACC Annual Meeting attendees to join the hour-long panel on Understanding Legal Tech & Social Media: Your Professional Responsibility, on Oct. 13 at 4:45 p.m. EDT. The interactive panel, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, will be moderated by Practical Law editors.