Corporate law departments are expected to meet growing demands for in-house legal professionals’ time, while cutting departmental spending and confronting changes in legal technology and process innovation. These are among the findings of the 2020 State of the Corporate Law Departments Report released today by Thomson Reuters.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected corporate law departments, the report found that corporate law leaders remain committed to three core strategic priorities:

  • 50% want to improve functional effectiveness
  • 44% want to increase efficiency
  • 26% want to safeguard their company

The annual report combines quantitative benchmarking from Legal Tracker with Acritas phone interviews with senior in-house legal counsel. Follow-up interviews were conducted with general counsel to gauge the impact of COVID-19; respondents indicated their priorities remain the same, though some projects are on hold.

With the pandemic exacerbating the pressure on corporate law departments, the report offers insights into how law department leaders are turning to technology and data to mitigate risk, control costs and address changing business needs.

As law departments more frequently collaborate with other departments and functions, and company leaders increasingly expect them to expand into new areas — such as cybersecurity and auditing — department leaders are leveraging data analytics and technology to use their resources more effectively.

The report notes how legal tools — including matter management, contract life cycle management, document management and legal project management — can increase functional effectiveness and help law departments better manage their workflow.

Law departments also rely on technology to find innovative ways to reduce costs and safeguard the company, in the face of changing regulations and new risks, such as data privacy and the economic impact of COVID-19.

“In-house legal departments are increasingly taking a broader operational view to change current processes,” said Chris Maguire, general manager, Corporate Legal Software, Compliance and Risk for Thomson Reuters. “This presents a challenge, but also an opportunity, to use technology and data analytics to identify and improve processes to maximize efficiency and effectiveness, while continuing to deliver on the core duty to safeguard the company.”

For more insights, download the full report, and register for a May 7 webinar to learn what these priorities mean for law department leaders in this dramatically changed legal landscape.