Legal departments are maximizing plateauing headcount and driving efficiencies, even while demands on their time increase, according to the 2018 Thomson Reuters Corporate Legal Department Efficiency Report: Doing More With Less and Increasing Productivity in Corporate Legal Settings. The 2018 report — the third in a series of Thomson Reuters efficiency reports — surveyed 462 attorneys and decision makers working in corporate legal departments nationwide.

“One trend continuing to shape legal departments through each survey is how general counsel are increasingly expected to serve as business advisers in addition to providing legal advice,” explained Chris Maguire, managing director of the U.S. Corporate segment, Thomson Reuters Legal. “General counsel are becoming more involved across their organizations, particularly in terms of advising the board of directors and business leadership.”

The report findings stressed how corporate legal departments, already stretched by limited resources, are confronting new, as well as traditional, challenges. Respondents noted that data security and ethics and compliance remain key priorities, but cybersecurity ranked higher in importance to legal departments in 2018.

The report highlighted the measures legal departments are implementing in order to operate more efficiently.

“While most operational activities are still handled by general counsel and attorneys, GCs are increasingly relying on legal department operations managers to find creative ways to use resources, as well as track spending and time,” said Maguire. “This gets to the heart of the rationale for a more efficient in-house team: the ability to focus on strategic work.”

The report findings demonstrated how the growing demands on legal departments are making it increasingly difficult for in-house leaders to avoid the pitfalls of inefficiencies, such as budget stress, staffing woes and dependence on outside counsel.

Download and read the full survey report here.

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