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Corporate Law Departments

2022 State of Corporate Law Departments: Benchmarking, optimizing, and innovating in a post-pandemic world

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

In the newly published "2022 State of Corporate Law Departments" report, we look at how the dramatic shifts that law departments endured during the pandemic may just be the beginning of a larger transformation

The global COVID-19 pandemic forced a period of rapid change on many industries and organizations, and corporate law departments were not immune. To the contrary, law departments of all sizes and across many industries underwent dramatic shifts in workflow processes, strategic priorities, and perhaps most significantly, working environments. Indeed, that ongoing crisis loomed heavily throughout 2021 even as the whole world progresses — albeit slowly, and in fits and starts — into a new, post-pandemic era.

As corporations’ responses continue to evolve moving forward in 2022, there is appetite and readiness for even greater transformation pulsing throughout the different industry, organizational, departmental, and individual levels. Where 2020 and 2021 saw the emergence of new ways of working rapidly imposed because of the pandemic, 2022 looks to offer the law departments the opportunity to embed entirely new dynamics.

Not surprisingly, then 43% of those corporate law department leaders surveyed in a new report said they expect their departments’ total legal spend to increase in the coming 12 months, as opposed to just 21% that said they were anticipating a reduction in spending. This is the strongest indication to date of a significant upturn in the level of legal expenditure that the survey has tracked over the last decade.

In Thomson Reuters’ just-published 2022 State of Corporate Law Departments report, we examine how the most successful law departments will be those that leverage the momentum of the past two years to actively embrace transformative change, in how they integrate and operate both within their organization and in utilizing outside legal expertise.

As corporations’ responses continue to evolve moving forward in 2022, there is appetite and readiness for even greater transformation pulsing throughout the different industry, organizational, departmental, and individual levels.

“Corporate law department leaders continue to navigate their organizations through a global pandemic and increased global uncertainty and market disruptions,” said Hillary McNally, general manager in Corporates for Thomson Reuters.  “The relationship between the in-house team and the outside counsel remains important, with three themes rising to the surface for better partnership — pricing, scoping and project management.”

The report was compiled by looking at benchmarking data and anecdotal interviews through three key data sources, including Thomson Reuters Sharplegal; the Stellar Performance research panels; and the Thomson Reuters Legal Department Operations Index.

Top law department priorities

The report highlights the key factors that corporate law department leaders identified as their top priorities for the coming 12 months. Interestingly, much of this list is unchanged from last year’s report, despite the extreme turbulence for corporations worldwide, perhaps indicating departments’ desire for stability and a focus on core duties as the world comes out (slowly) from the pandemic crisis.

corporate law departments

Looking at the data in the report, it’s clear that the long-standing purpose of a corporation’s law department — to safeguard the business from risk and legal trouble — was still high on many leaders list, with 46% of leaders citing this as a top priority. However, a slightly higher number of survey respondents cited efficiency as a stronger priority for the department. Again, this could be a reflection of the pressure many corporate law departments are feeling from the company itself to be more efficient and cost-effective in its delivery of legal services to the business.

Another highly ranked — and very similar — priority was the ability for the department to deliver work effectively even in the face of challenges. Given this, report brings into focus what has become the two pillars among top departmental priorities — the efficient and effective delivery of legal work — that in fact, support the rest, especially the enduring function of safeguarding the business.

In addition to the data analysis of the survey responses, the 2022 State of Corporate Law Departments report will provide insight to corporate law departments and their leaders that will help them with several analytical and innovative exercises themselves. For example, the report will allow departments to benchmark key metrics, such as their legal spend and team size, against the latest peer data. The report will also allow leaders to see how other departments and their teams are optimizing their legal systems and work processes in order to drive greater efficiency for their organizations.

Finally, the report provides an understanding of how other corporate law departments are implementing transformational change within their own departments, allowing other forward-thinking department leaders and team members to better innovate their departments to prepare for the future.

You can download Thomson Reuters’ 2022 State of Corporate Law Departments report, here.