March 14, 2019

Corporate Law Departments Must Adapt and Respond to Demonstrate Value in Complex Environment

Need to build diverse teams, embrace innovation and enhance project management skills, according to the “State of Corporate Law Departments Report”

DALLAS and LONDON, March 14, 2019 — Corporate law departments need to have the right teams in place, be willing to embrace innovation and improve collaboration with external stakeholders in an ever-changing market and to deliver value for their organization. These are among key findings from the “2019 State of Corporate Law Departments: Improving the Impact of Legal Services,” a new comprehensive report from Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and Acritas.

The report analyzed research from Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, Acritas, the International Bar Association and the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium.

“This is a challenging time for corporate law departments, as they strive to support their company’s growth in a dynamic and fast-moving business environment while controlling risk and minimizing spend,” said Sari Dweck, senior vice president and lead counsel for Thomson Reuters Corporates Segment. “To be effective, they need to build diverse teams, embrace technology, ensure their department is aligned to the company’s strategic business objectives and stay ahead of changing regulations.”

Among the key findings of the study, in-house legal departments need to:

  • Build Diverse Teams:  Legal teams (both in-house and external) need to increase their demographic diversity, which is consistently shown to result in higher performance ratings. As the report notes, only 29 percent of legal departments have formal diversity programs, while both law firms and corporate law departments continue to under-represent female talent at the most senior levels. In-house counsel can play an important role in helping increase diversity at outside law firms and within their own teams by encouraging firms to have a measurable diversity initiative and by implementing these same requirements within their department.
  • Embrace Innovation:  According to the report, legal departments that embrace technology, overhaul work processes and pricing models and build collaborative partnerships with external law firms and alternative legal service providers achieve higher performance rankings. Since most in-house lawyers are time-strapped, it is important for them to research, pilot and implement innovative solutions. Creating legal operations positions can help with this process, yet only 50 percent of law departments employ legal operations professionals.
  • Enhance Project Management Skills:  Forty-one percent of the lawyers hired by corporate law departments felt the in-house team could benefit from effective project management training. Project management skills noted include: internal organization, coordination and efficiency. Additionally, law firms noted that stand-out corporate law departments provided comprehensive briefings with clear objectives, scope and expectations.
  • Find New Ways to Demonstrate Value:  Law departments need to prove their value beyond simple cost savings, such as measuring and demonstrating their value in terms of business benefit and averted risk. In addition, they need to show how they are delivering results more effectively and efficiently. This is especially true as legal teams struggle to comply and stay current with evolving data privacy regulations. According to the 2018 Thomson Reuters Survey on Data Privacy Compliance, nearly half of organizations surveyed globally (44 percent) say they are not meeting the data privacy regulations, while 64 percent of U.S. organizations fail to meet these standards.

“It is disheartening to see that law firms and in-house legal teams still struggle with diversity issues,” said Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas. “Our research shows that male in-house counsel are biased in favor of selecting male external advisors and pick women as lead partner in just 17 percent of cases, and just 29 percent of law departments require diversity information from their law firms.”


Acritas is the world’s leading provider of global legal market intelligence. We know that your success depends on the quality of your decisions. Empirical data provides the best foundation for informed decision-making and successful strategy development. That is why our experts only make recommendations to clients based on the most robust research insights. With Acritas you can be sure to find the information you need to improve business performance and sharpen your competitive edge. For more information, go to

Thomson Reuters

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Jenn Riggle
Thomson Reuters

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