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Corporate Law Departments

In pandemic, corporate law departments saw catalyst for accelerating change

New Thomson Reuters report on corporate law departments show that challenges of the pandemic helped push needed change agenda

For most corporate law departments, 2020 will be remembered as a year where everything was turned on its head by a global pandemic that upended everything from how to approach external law firms to how in-house teams would work and interact.

Now, amid the after-effects of 2020, law department are like to see as many positives as negatives in this year and beyond. And for those progressive department leaders, the many lessons learned during the pandemic should act as a catalyst for push the type of internal change that many departments have long sought.

Into this, Thomson Reuters has released its 2021 State of the Corporate Law Departments report, which finds — among a myriad of other key conclusions — that the obstacles coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic greatly aided law departments to uniquely position themselves to optimize their value and effectiveness and demonstrate their value to their organization.


You can download the full “2021 State of the Corporate Law Departments” report here.


Indeed, the pandemic stress-tested most law departments’ current operations in a way department leaders had never seen before, placing pressure on areas such as increasing and evolving workloads, shifting demand for external support, and heightening efforts around security and safeguarding. These pain points — as challenging as they were — also had the potential to spur department leaders to think differently, especially around ways to more effectively and efficiently solve for these issues, the report showed.

Those departments that had already embraced technology and remote working prior to the pandemic were more efficiently and quickly able to support their organizations with the additional crisis management work that resulted from the pandemic.

The report also presented a contrast between modern departments that were able to quickly acclimate to the new environment and traditional law departments that lost time trying to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions.

law departments

“While corporate law department leaders have previously guided teams and businesses through recessions, sales shortfalls and restructurings, the global pandemic put unparalleled pressure on these departments to adapt,” says Lisa Hart Shepherd, Vice President of Research & Advisory Services for Thomson Reuters. “Through unprecedented disruption, crisis management and immediate shifts to new ways of working, critical gaps and shortcomings within departments were revealed and many corrected through the implementation of new processes and technologies.”

In fact, those law department leaders who quickly realized that their traditional methods of work could evolve and still meet department goals were able to pivot faster and more successfully during this year of unexpected challenges, Shepherd adds.

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