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What is the purpose of the in-house legal team?

Law departments in 2020 need to be more sophisticated than ever before, performing under greater board-level scrutiny on legal spend whilst providing strategic advice on an increasingly complex, global and ever-changing regulatory environment.

Last week I spoke to one GC who told me this:

My job isn’t just about doing legal work. That is the 11-3 job. I need to ensure we are being proactive about compliance monitoring, governance and protecting the future of the business so I can’t afford to be held up by detailed questions about NDAs.

A good in-house lawyer will understand their business intimately enough to spot incoming threats, and be knowledgeable enough about the law to apply creativity in solving business problems. In that case, why are so many good lawyers still ploughing through bottomless inboxes of requests? How else can they ensure that business delays are not caused when that crucial deal gets ‘stuck with legal’?

In an ideal world, legal teams would remove the distraction of routine, repeatable work by automating as much as possible, setting up commercial teams to self-serve as much as possible, and outsourcing anything that can be done more cheaply by someone else so that in-house lawyers can focus on the pressing strategic issues.

However, none of this seems so simple when the opposing forces of risk and cost come into play.

Implementing technology takes time and money, isn’t always the answer and can introduce risk without sufficient investment in set-up, training, or updating the rules as the business environment keeps changing. Self-service is good common sense for a subset of the work, but setting this up for success requires significant time from your most experienced lawyers. Outsourcing to low-cost, unregulated legal providers can be a valuable exercise, but without the right processes and tools you risk creating a management overhead that outweighs the promised benefits. That’s a lot of effort to find out that you could have done the work more cheaply and effectively yourself. However, it would require a huge investment to hire your own specialist lawyers, consultants, project managers, technologists and data analysts to implement the changes and run the service in house. Engaging a law firm to help is a low risk option, but with a commercial model built around hourly rates there is little incentive for them to strive for efficiency and operational effectiveness.

In short, the risk goes up as the cost comes down, and meanwhile the board needs you to demonstrate ever tighter control over legal spend.

At Deloitte Legal Managed Services our vision is to give you access to qualified lawyers, regulated under the right jurisdiction, with the right expertise, under a commercial model which incentivises us to do the right thing for your organisation. That means automate where possible, introduce self-service where possible, outsource where possible and exercise our legal judgement wherever it is genuinely needed, all the while providing you with real-time data that enables us to work together to continuously improve.

Where other legal providers work in isolation, we collaborate across your legal ecosystem just like your own lawyers, whilst providing the flexibility to cope with peaks and troughs in demand.

It is possible to bring legal spend under control without adding risk, and without distracting your team from their purpose in guiding and protecting your business.

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