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State of the Government Legal Department Report 2024: Satisfaction levels improve, even as worries over staffing and technology persist

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

A new report shows that those in government legal departments consider their departments successful, and many also said they feel reasonably confident that they have the necessary tools and technology to do their jobs effectively

Many government legal professionals — district attorneys, public defenders, and county and municipal attorneys — are feeling a fuller confidence in the direction of their agency or department and define their agency as successful, according to a new report.

Still, many of these government legal professionals also acknowledge the existence of difficult challenges around improving workplace efficiency and the need for further public investment in new technology and trained personnel.

To get a better understanding of how those professionals within government legal organizations and departments define success as well as their views on the most impactful challenges they face, the Thomson Reuters Institute conducted a survey in January of 150 attorneys in public agencies or departments at the Federal, State, County, and Municipal level. We then distilled our findings into the State of the Government Legal Department Report 2024, examining how those within government legal departments are addressing their most pressing challenges around staffing and talent as well as the use of technology — including advanced technology like generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) — in their workplace.

Interestingly, we found that the vast majority of government lawyers (86%) consider their departments successful and cited key metrics such as department reputation, client satisfaction, and work/life balance as the most important measurements of that success. Further, almost three-quarters (73%) said they feel at least somewhat confident that they have the necessary tools and technology to do their jobs effectively.

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This generally high level of satisfaction may be because our survey also showed that many factors previously seen as steep challenges or hardships appear to be stabilizing or even improving since our last survey in 2022. For example, staffing shortages and technology budgets — perennial top challenges, even this year — are projected to level out or improve over the next two years, our survey respondents said.

Still, when it came to identifying the top challenges that government legal departments are facing now, not surprisingly, the three top challenges were: talent issues, efficiency in the workplace, and technology adoption.

      • Talent issues — As in past years, talent-related issues continue to be viewed as top challenges for government legal departments, and specific issues of attracting and retaining top talent, loss of institutional knowledge due to retiring staff, and recruiting new talent were all cited by more than half of respondents as major challenges.
      • Workplace efficiency — While improving efficiency in the workplace was cited as a top challenge, more distressingly, large portions of respondents said their departments had not yet determined how to address their department’s lack of internal efficiency and the problem of staff spending too much time on administrative tasks.
      • Technology adoption — Nearly half of respondents said that their department’s investment in technology has increased over the past two years, but they still cite budgets, bureaucracy, and too few tech solutions specifically being designed for government use as the main barriers to higher levels of tech adoption. And in a more positive sign, a significant portion of respondents said that when it comes to GenAI, their department is either using it in the office or are planning or considering using it.

Overall, the report illustrates the mood among many professionals who work in government legal departments, making it clear that the ways in which department leaders navigate their teams through these challenges over the next year or so will likely determine how effective and efficient their government legal departments will remain — and how successful they will continue to see themselves.

You can download the Thomson Reuters Institute’s “State of the Government Legal Department Report 2024” by filling out the form below:

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