17 April 2019

Oz in-house under pressure

In-house Australia expects a year of risk, elevated expectations, reduced resources and a strict need to focus on bringing value to their firms.

The Australian government’s Royal Commission examination into misconduct in banking and other financial sectors, plus new changes to whistleblower protection laws, have put law departments on the defensive, according to the State of Australian Corporate Law Departments 2019 report published by Thomson Reuters and UK legal research firm Acritas.

Spending decrease

The report explores trends impacting the Australia’s corporate law departments role. In-house lawyers and staff are expected to bear the brunt of deeper budget cuts over the next 12 months, with legal spending projected to decrease in Australia at a greater rate than the global average and among corporate law departments in the US and China. With renewed budget tightening, more Australian legal departments are expected to elevate the value proposition of outside legal suppliers and looking to the value-add as a key component of their selection criteria. Companies are demanding more strategic, proactive approaches from their in-house legal departments, while general Counsel are expecting more from their outside counsel and other legal service suppliers.

Innovation push

There is also an innovation push as general counsel increasingly seek new and innovative ways to manage and deliver their legal work. The report showed 48 per cent of general counsel surveyed are introducing innovative solutions to drive efficiencies and more effective working practices. But only 37 per cent believe their legal providers are innovative enough for today’s legal environment. Adoption of legal technology among Australian in-house legal teams is relatively low compared to other major legal markets. The report shows that 38 per cent of foreign multinationals have legal needs in Australia and 71 per cent of Australian organizations have a need for advice outside of the country, demanding a more global strategic and well-planned approach.

Toolkit

The report includes a legal department toolkit based on recommended performance metrics and best practices for general counsel looking to drive their legal teams’ in-house performance in 2019. The toolkit features ways to create metrics-based performance improvement, review technology processes and efficiencies, and address what may be stopping your department from developing truly collaborative relationships.