Legal dept heads expect little help despite workload boost, Ashurst study finds

In-house leaders are looking to tech and data to drive value and decision making

Legal dept heads expect little help despite workload boost, Ashurst study finds

Despite an anticipated boost in workload, 75% of legal department heads are expecting little help to come in the form of increased headcount, a study conducted by Ashurst and OMC Partners has found.

A total of 64% of respondents reported that workload could increase by up to 30%, with a significant chunk originating from regulatory, data protection, employment and ESG-related matters. However, not only is headcount expected to remain stagnant, but more than 40% of heads are looking to limit spending by up to a third, according to the report, entitled Legal Operations – the shape of things to come.

“With intense pressure to reduce spend (external and internal), headcounts remaining static and the rapid growth in specialist areas such as ESG investing, law department leaders are clearly faced with a challenge as teams look to pivot existing resources to meet this shifting demand,” Matt Peacock, OMC Partners managing partner, said in a media release. “Key to this will be adopting a more balanced blend of resource, whilst retooling their existing teams and developing a broader legal operations skills mix to keep up with growing demands for proven technologies, data driven decision-making and project management.”

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Tech and data seem to be setting the trend for the future as law department leaders look to these factors to drive business value and decision making, a shift that Ashurst said signifies how operations are expected to become increasingly reliant on “meaningful, rich, accessible data.” Moreover, legal teams are working around tight budgets by exploring how to leverage existing tech.

A total of 61% of respondents also reported having realigned legal operating models to fit with strategic changes implemented by their organisations, “reflecting the rise of digitisation and remote working combined with increasing stakeholder demand for responsiveness and transparency,” Ashurst said.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to transforming legal operating models. Our research has shown that law department leaders are developing a blend of cost reduction, efficiency and productivity approaches to their transformation programmes,” said Helga Butcher, who leads the firm’s legal project management and legal process improvement initiative. “Building on the adaptive mindset we have seen throughout the pandemic and embracing alternatives to the status quo will be key to meeting increasing demand for new ways of working.”

Butcher pointed out the fallout from COVID-19 across industries has spurred organisations to strengthen their focus on ways of working and transformation.

“This has provided a unique opportunity for legal operations teams to really demonstrate their value as a result of the need to be more agile and streamlined,” she said.

The Legal Operations – the shape of things to come report collates responses from law department leaders operating in eight core sectors.

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